Career Planning Timeline for Doctoral Students

These timetables are specifically intended for doctoral students who are planning to apply for academic jobs that begin in September.

Remember, you will want to seek a tenure-track position when you feel your research record is strong enough.

Fall—2 Years Before the Position Begins

  • Make sure all members of your dissertation committee are selected.
  • Consider getting a degree mid-year, which enables you to apply with “degree in hand.” (International scholars, however, should consider the visa implications of this timing.)
  • Know conference dates and locations. Plan to attend, and, if appropriate, give a presentation(s). Learn deadlines for submitting papers.
  • From your department, learn about all the important sources of job listings in your field. In some disciplines, the job listings of one scholarly association cover almost everything. In other fields, there may be multiple sources.
  • Explore the many online resources focused on academic careers and job searching, such as The Chronicle of Higher Education, Inside Higher Education, and Higher Education Recruitment Consortium. Use these to read about the issues and trends that will help you learn about life as a faculty member.
  • When the Division of Graduate Studies or your department offer career programs or workshops on academic searching, plan to attend.
  • If your department allows students to review candidates’ application materials or to sit on hiring committees, take advantage of this opportunity. Think about what candidates do that does or does not work well.
  • Cultivate your online presence. Utilize potentially useful networking resources such as and LinkedIn. Start to develop a professional website, especially if you find that most people in your field have one.
  • Work on developing professional relationships and networks outside your department and the UO.
  • Begin the process of submitting an article(s) to reputable journals in your field. The goal is to have at least one current publication on your CV by the time you complete your degree or postdoc.
  • Consider whether proactively enhancing your teaching skills will benefit you, in particular if you are considering applications to teaching-focused institutions. Identify your teaching evaluations for your job search.
  • Give thought to your long-range goals and consider the kinds of jobs you will wish to pursue. If your plans will have an impact on a spouse or partner, begin to talk with that person about geographic locations you will both consider acceptable.
  • Identify any postdocs for which you may want to apply and learn their deadlines.
  • Think about developing a backup plan. If it includes seeking non-faculty positions, start to educate yourself about the options

Summer—15 Months Before the Position Begins

  • Make sure your dissertation will be finished no later than the summer before the job begins, and preferably earlier. In many cases, hiring departments will not consider a candidate without a degree in hand.
  • Find out how faculty in your department provide letters of recommendation. Get letters of recommendation now from those with whom you will have no further significant contact.
  • If you will be applying for individual postdoctoral funding, begin to prepare applications. If you will be applying to work on someone’s research grant, start to network with potential principal investigators.
  • Discuss your plans with your advisor and any others in the department who may be interested. If they don’t think you will be ready to go on the market until the following year, consider their point of view very seriously. If you begin a new position before your dissertation or postdoctoral research is complete, you will start off behind schedule in terms of the “tenure clock.”
  • Renew contacts with faculty members whom you may know at other institutions, letting them know of your progress and that you will be on the market soon.
  • Collect all the materials you have that you might want to use or refer to as part of an application and make sure you can find them. Your collection could include teaching evaluations, samples of student work, syllabi, press or media coverage of your work, and notes for a cover letter.
  • Make sure your CV is up-to-date.
  • Take time now to give some thought to where your work will lead, and focus on a clear articulation of your future research agenda or goals. Inevitably, applying to faculty positions will require that you talk about your long-range research plans.
  • Begin to prepare the additional written materials you will need in your search. You may be asked to provide an institution with a research paper or article, a brief statement of your research plans or teaching philosophy, “evidence of successful teaching,” an abstract or the first chapter of your dissertation, a diversity statement, and/or sample syllabi.
  • You may also be asked for a copy of your transcript. UO transcripts can be ordered through the Office of the Registrar.
  • Think about what resources you will need to do your research as a faculty member. Begin to look into ways of funding your research. You may be asked about this in an interview.
  • If you are also considering non-faculty options, be aware that these opportunities become available throughout the year. If an academic position is your first choice, concentrate on that search at this time.

Fall—12 Months Before the Position Begins

  • Finalize your CV (you may need to update it a few times during the year) and complete additional supporting written materials.
  • Monitor job listings and apply to those for which you are a good fit. The first applications you write may take longer to prepare than subsequent ones. Be sure to meet all deadlines.
  • Arrange for letters of recommendation to be written by everyone who will support your search. Your advisor will probably update his or her letter as your dissertation progresses through its final stages.
  • Prepare your teaching portfolio in case you are asked for it. Develop a list of the materials you plan to include.
  • If you’re in an art or design field, prepare the visual materials you’ll be asked to submit with applications.
  • Attend any programs on the academic job search that may be offered on campus.
  • Keep in close touch with your advisor and other recommenders, and let them know where you are in the application process.
  • If you find yourself confined to a specific geographical location, make direct inquiries to departments that particularly interest you. (What you are most likely to discover in this way are non-tenure track positions.)
  • Review the literature in your field and subfield in preparation for interviews.
  • Check to confirm that letters of application have been received by the departments to which you have applied.
  • Investigate sources of funding for your research so that you can discuss your plans with hiring institutions.
  • Plan ways to maintain your perspective and sense of humor during what can be a trying time. Be sure to seek out campus resources, encourage others who are going through the same thing, and nurture your own support network.

Winter—8 Months Before the Position Begins

  • You may be contacted by email or phone to schedule interviews.
  • If you are in a discipline where preliminary interviews for faculty positions are held at conferences, you may wish to consider whether or not you will attend even if you do not have interviews scheduled well in advance. Requests from search committees may come up unexpectedly, and it will help if you know how you will handle them.
  • Prepare carefully for each preliminary interview, whether it is a phone, video, or conference interview. Remember to send thank you notes after each interview.
  • If you are contacted for preliminary interviews, know that campus interviews are the next step in the process.
  • If you give a presentation or job talk as part of an interview day on campus, practice it in advance. Organize a practice talk/presentation with your department and get feedback.
  • Continue to look, apply, and interview for positions.
  • This may be a stressful time. Plan to take some breaks for activities or events that you consider relaxing and renewing.

Spring—6 Months Before the Position Begins

  • Continue to apply and interview for positions, although most openings will have been announced by now.
  • You may begin to get offers. If you feel you need more time to make a decision about an offer, don’t hesitate to ask for it. You will, however, have to abide by whatever time frame you and the institution agree on for your decision.
  • You don’t need to be totally open with everyone at this stage, but you must be completely honest. When you do accept a position, consider your acceptance a binding commitment.
  • It is possible your job hunt will not yield the offers you seek. If you have received offers but have strong reservations about them, don’t think that you must take absolutely any job that is presented to you. Keep in mind, however, that in a competitive job market, tenure-track offers can be few and far between, so think carefully before rejecting an offer.
  • If you did not receive any offers, talk with your advisor and others about the best way to position yourself for next year’s market. You can also keep watching for one-year appointments, which are often announced later than tenure-track positions.
  • If your Plan B involves a non-faculty job search, consult career discovery resources for PhDs and ABDs.
  • After you have accepted a job, take time to thank everyone who has been helpful to you in the process.

These timetables were adapted from chapter II, “Planning and Timing Your Search,” in The Academic Job Search Handbook. (Vick, Julia Miller, Furlong, Jennifer S., Lurie, Rosanne, and Heiberger, Mary Morris. The Academic Job Search Handbook. 5th ed. Philadelphia: U of Pennsylvania, 2016. Web.) All rights reserved. Reprinted with permission. The full text is available as an e-book through the UO Libraries.