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Teaching Career question [Aug. 6th, 2006|02:59 pm]
grad students in mathematics


So I've been thinking about my future career in math, and wanted to ask something. The impression I get is that for academia jobs, a person either gets a 'reserach focus' job where they teach one or two classes a semester but put their main focus and energy into research, or a 'teaching job' where they teach two or three classes a semester and only publish a paper every couple of years (this I assumption I base partially on looking up faculty publications on mathsci for various schools and partially from what I've read and heard elsewhere). Is this correct?

Now, I know 'research focus' jobs are very difficult to get, so if I end up finishing my PhD but find that I am not able to land any of these 'research focus' jobs (even after say, doing a post doc or two), does that mean I'm basically screwed if I still want to do serious research? Are there positions where person can take both teaching and research seriously? Or are people generally only able to focus on one or the other? Is it that the teaching component at 'teaching focus' jobs take up so much of a person's time that they have no time to do research (assuming they are willing to pull 60 hour/weeks or more between research and teaching related duties)? Or that they (generally) do not choose to research a lot? I can't imagine teaching 2 or 3 classes a semester could be THAT time consuming (I'd imagine teaching duties, after getting used to them, would take 30 hours/week at most, which would leave a decent amount of time to research)? Yet again, it seems that facult at 'teaching focus' schools only publish say, every 3 or 4 years on average.

Could someone clarify the situation here? Something just isn't adding up. Thank you!!

[User Picture]From: mr_geometry
2006-08-07 01:29 am (UTC)
More like 4 classes a semester, occasionally with 3 or 4 different preps... In addition, people in my department tend to teach in the summers (for extra money) rather than concentrate solely on research.

Yes there certainly are jobs where you can take research AND teaching seriously!

I'm no expert but it seems to me that there are plenty of good academic jobs out there---it's just competitive to get one. But not impossible.

My personal advice (not even worth the paper it's printed on...) is to do a postdoc or two, even if you want to end up at a less research-intensive school. I skipped this step and now find myself in a somewhat isolated position (nobody at my school in my area), with very inadequate library support. There are lots of things I still would like to learn and I wish I had gone to a postdoc in order to help get my research going a little better.

(Basically I scraped through my PhD program, and I produced an OK dissertation a year ago, but since then I haven't managed to get anything figured out. I can't help thinking it would help me to have spent 2-3 years with more math resources, a mentor in my area, and half as much teaching duties. :-) )

I'm pretty happy with my job but I think I would be happier if I had done a good postdoc first, *then* come to my current job. Maybe it's just sour grapes, I dunno.

Anyway, I don't think a "research job" is all that hard to get, unless you're talking about the elite, top-tier universities. You can do good, fun research at smaller schools, as long as you're well-prepared! (I.e., work hard in grad school, meet people at conferences, try to get a good postdoc.) Good luck!
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[User Picture]From: dhilbert83
2006-08-07 01:53 pm (UTC)
Ah, so 4 classes a semester is around the norm for 'teaching focus' jobs (I hate using that term, but not sure what else to call it)? So I guess that the majority of the time, the teachers at these jobs simply do not have the time to publish regularly, even if they wanted to?? Do any schools with a teaching focus give a reduced teaching load to those (via postdocs I'd imagine) who have proven a serious desire/capability to research, so that they can spend a little more time researching? Out of curiosity, at a 'teaching focus' school, how much time should I expect to put into teaching/preparing for classes? 30-40hours/week, or more?

It doesn't seem like a 'research focus' job is impossible, but my impression is that ONLY schools with PhD programs (and the number of these is not a whole lot when compared to the number of schools in country) offer 'research focus' jobs. Is that true? Or do other schools offer positions that allow one to focus largely on research? Also, I might be coming out of a not so hot school (SUNY Buffalo, though I may transfer after my second year), so even if I do some postdocs, I worry that it might be too tough (though I at least know I love research, as I was able to do published research as an undergrad.) My impression also is that only the top few graduates out of even the better/best PhD programs get these kinds of jobs (and the ocaissional student from lesser known schools who do a good thesis and good postdocs, and which I hope to be a part of heh.)

The last question I guess, is that, are there basically only the two extremes of 'teaching focus' where as you say, you teach probably around 4 classes a semester and I suppose have little time for research, or a 'research focus' where your main job, like it or not, is to research, and it's up to you if you take teaching seriously?

My hope was that there were positions in between these two extremes, where the teaching load is a little larger than 'research focus' jobs, but where you are expected to publish more regularly (my guess: at least every two years, maybe more like every year) and you have time to research, just that research and teaching are of more equal priorities.

Are these the jobs you mean where "Yes there certainly are jobs where you can take research AND teaching seriously!" Or do you mean taking teaching seriously at a 'research focus' job?

I hope my expectation that such above mentioned jobs exist isn't a pipe dream, though I'm guessing now that it is :(. Ah well!

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[User Picture]From: mr_geometry
2006-08-08 02:11 am (UTC)
No, no, definitely not a pipe dream! I can't write a whole lot (I'm a bit tired at the moment and I'm far from an expert, having been out of grad school for only one year) but let me briefly say: (1) there is definitely a "spectrum" of jobs (as measured in terms of teaching duties, research activity, level of students...) (2) when I said "teaching" jobs can be 4 classes per semester, I didn't mean to suggest that ALL or even MOST jobs have that high a level of teaching. It's common enough but I think most jobs, especially those with any kind of research expectation, have a lower teaching load.

I take it you have been in grad school for one year? Don't worry TOO much about being able to find a research position. Have you looked at the YMN website?


If you ask similar questions there, you might get responses from people with much more experience than I have. :-) The AMS web site also has lots of information about career options, including surveys of what different types of schools there are, etc.
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[User Picture]From: ineverycolor
2007-12-09 05:36 am (UTC)
Is your current job right now an academic one?
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