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Academic Careers


PhD programs in Classics have traditionally prepared students to teach and conduct research as university faculty. While the academic job market was never particularly easy, it has never really  recovered from cuts in university budgets following the 2007-2008 financial crisis, to name just one factor. Students should bear in mind that they will typically be competing with several other applicants for a single job. That said, academia can be an immensely rewarding career path for students who are skilled, dedicated, well-connected, and lucky enough to succeed in the job search, which may take up to a year before yielding initial employment.


Career Positions

Many PhD students with academic dreams hope to one day land a tenure-track position. Those with such hopes should keep in mind that more and more of the humanities classes still being offered are being taught by non-tenured lecturers. Nevertheless, our department has succeeded in producing many scholars over the past 10 years who have found success in tenure-track jobs, whether initially or (more commonly) after holding more temporary positions. Overall, students should expect to spend some time in temporary positions, such as visiting assistant professorships, post-docs, or lecturerships, before building the type of research and teaching portfolios that might allow them a tenure-track appointment. Finding a tenure-track job, however, is not a requirement for having a fulfilling academic career. There are many happy and successful long-term lecturers, though not all universities remunerate them fairly. Another important difference in academic jobs is that between Small Liberal Arts Colleges (SLACs) and big research universities such as the University of Michigan. Traditionally, research institutions have concentrated more on applicants’ research, while SLACs have a stronger focus on teaching.  However, given the small number of jobs and large pools of applicants, most jobs now simply demand excellence in both.


Using Your PhD

The PhD offers more direct preparation for a career in academia than any other. However, it is useful to keep in mind that some parts of a PhD education will be more important than others when applying for academic jobs. The most important factors for job placement are one’s published research, awards and grants, and ability to demonstrate that they are an excellent teacher. Be proactive in seeking opportunities to develop a strong portfolio.


University of Michigan Resources

The Department maintains several useful resources, listed below. Additionally, we have several useful books on professional development and the academic job search available in the department library.

The Department runs an annual series of workshops designed to help students navigate the job market and provide professional training more generally. While geared primarily towards advanced students, these sessions are open to students at any stage of their career. 

Click here for this year’s schedule.