After the MA and the PhD

Teaching Positions in Two-Year Colleges

Two-year colleges, sometimes referred to as junior colleges and community colleges, enroll 30-40% percent of all college students in the country. However, many of these students are seeking training in technical and vocational courses. Other two-year institutions function as places where students prepare for entry into four-year institutions. It should be pointed out that graduates with an MA in Classics, as well as those with a PhD, are employable at such institutions. While Latin or Greek is taught at some of these schools, the numbers are low. Persons employed in these institutions would be more likely to teach a variety of courses in broad humanities fields with a stress on classical literature - mythology, etymology, literature surveys, and perhaps ancient history. Again, the ability to teach a second foreign language, especially Spanish, can be quite beneficial in this context. Teachers in two-year colleges sometimes hold the PhD, but more often the MA. Sometimes a Master of Arts in Teaching or a Master of Arts in College Teaching is the requirement. Strong emphasis is placed on interaction with the students and personalized teaching. For an excellent overview of the two-year college landscape and advice on how to seek employment in two-year colleges, see the home page of the MLA's Committee on Community Colleges where there are several useful PDF files (http://www.mla.org/ccc). The home page of the American Association of Community Colleges (http://www.aacc.nche.edu/Pages/default.aspx) is equally helpful.  Another useful community college web site is that of the Community College Humanities Association:  http://www.ccha-assoc.org/.

Teaching Positions in Colleges and Universities

Preparing for the Job Market.  For university and four-year college positions, the PhD is the normal requirement. The competition for these positions is strong and candidates should be aware that this phase of their careers requires as much planning and consideration as do their graduate seminars and papers. Qualifications for a good position include the following:

  • A thorough knowledge of Greek and Latin is a strong selling point to prospective employers. This is true no matter what specialty the candidate has pursued. Historians, archaeologists, and numismatists may not specialize in languages, but, if they are part of a Classics department, most are regularly asked to teach language classes at their institutions. The majority of employers will be departments that lack a graduate program. While they seek a balance among faculty (e.g., among specialists in Greek and Latin or prose and poetry) and will hire to address gaps in this balance, most such departments require faculty members to teach a variety of courses at all levels, including the beginning levels of language instruction. Indeed, even larger departments with graduate programs often employ their faculty in similar ways. The wise candidate will be able to present him- or herself as ready and trained to do this.
  • Candidates can enhance their chances by ensuring breadth in their graduate education. It is common today for Classics departments to offer such courses as "Women in Antiquity," "Etymology," "Greek (or Roman) Civilization," and "Mythology." A broad training in multiple aspects of antiquity is therefore a must.
  • It is customary for graduates to have acquired teaching experience. Even if you have won a fellowship that requires no teaching, it would be a good idea to acquire such experience before entering the job market. It is increasingly common for prospective employers to ask for teaching evaluations or to request a sample class be taught during the on-campus interview. It is wise, therefore, when teaching as a graduate student, to devote some care to learning your craft. If your graduate program does not have an active and systematic program to train its teaching assistants, seek out at least one experienced teacher to act as your mentor. Work out with your mentor a rigorous program of teacher training that can then be reported to prospective employers.  Many jobs are offered by institutions where teaching is a priority.  Having a teaching portfolio to show to prospective employers is also a good idea.  You can obtain help in creating one from faculty from the school of education at your institution.
  • It is increasingly common for graduates to enter the job market with publications. This is far from a requirement for employment at this stage, but it certainly provides a concrete sign of scholarly potential.  Likewise, a record of presenting one or more talks at scholarly conferences can only enhance your vita. Note that there are several conferences run by and directed to graduate students and that many professional organizations now have panels at their conferences that are designed especially for graduate students.
  • Given the high numbers of people seeking jobs, it is only natural that first preference is often given to those who have completed their dissertations at the time of application. It is wise to plan accordingly.   

Searching for a Collegiate/University Teaching Position.  A student's department chairperson, director of graduate studies, and dissertation director can ordinarily be expected to help in the job search. You should also consult the APA's list of suggestions for job seekers.

Most universities have placement offices, which compile dossiers for candidates and send them out on request, sometimes for a small fee. Candidates should begin setting up a dossier at least a year in advance, choosing carefully those who will write letters of recommendation, and keeping the dossier up-to-date periodically by eliminating older letters and adding new ones. The candidate should establish that the dossier is complete before writing any letters of application. You should contact a number of professors who know you and your abilities well and discuss your plans with them as soon as you make the decision to apply for teaching positions. You should become aware of the deadlines for each of the schools to which you plan to apply and give your recommenders an extended period of time to write their letters of recommendation. When a letter sent directly from a candidate's professor is needed, the candidate should be aware that even in this day of computers this is something of a chore for the professor.  It is a courtesy to provide your writer with a pre-addressed, stamped envelope, if the recommendation is to be submitted through the mail.

The American Philological Association and the Archaeological Institute of America provide a joint Placement Service, which seeks to facilitate communication between hiring institutions and job candidates (a fee is charged to offset costs). It is the most common source for candidates who wish to learn of job openings.  It maintains a web site available only to users of the Service, where new position listings are posted as soon as they are received, it sends regular emails containing new job listings to registered candidates, and it also coordinates interviews at the joint APA/AIA annual meeting.  Consult its web page (http://placement.apaclassics.org) for all details.  A prudent candidate will be familiar with all of its services and advice.

Other very useful sources for job announcements include:

  • The Association of Departments of Foreign Languages (ADFL) at the MLA has an active job placement page (www.adfl.org/jil/index.htm).  It will be particularly important to check for jobs here if you have done work in either comparative literature or reception studies.
  • The Chronicle of Higher Education is a weekly academic newspaper, which regularly lists job openings in the Classics.
  • An online service called HigherEdJobs allows a free search for positions using key words (e.g., "classics") or location  (www.higheredjobs.com/search/default.cfm).

There are other sources that occasionally list jobs for classicists, and also cover a wide range of college opportunities, that may help you to recognize many alternative careers in academia. These publications can be found in placement offices or academic libraries:

  • Academe is a journal that comes with membership in the American Association of University Professors.  Details at (http://www.aaup.org/AAUP/pubsres).
  • The New York Times lists job openings on Sundays in the "Week in Review" section. Though Classics positions are rarely advertised here, there are many other opportunities listed in related academic fields, including non-teaching jobs.

Candidates with a specialty in ancient history may also wish to interview at the American Historical Association's annual meeting, which generally takes place at the same time as the APA/AIA meeting.  Check their web page (http://www.historians.org) under the "Jobs & Careers" tab for further information and advice and be aware that many ancient historians are hired by History Departments. In addition The Association of Ancient Historians (http://associationofancienthistorians.org/index.html) meets in the Spring.

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