Higher Ed. Administration? Educational Policy? Where should I start?
February 15, 2015 2:32 PM   Subscribe

I am on the job market with a PhD in the humanities (ughhh). I have quite a few publications in my field, and it's going *ok* so far, but my area is especially competitive, and I'm starting to think about how else I might use my PhD to help me find a fulfilling career. I have a passion for my field, but I've discovered my primary passion is teaching and administration, and I have been searching for a job specifically in a teaching-oriented college. However, I also have some experience in administration and curriculum development in higher education, and I'm wondering how I might apply these skills to a career in education policy (?) or education administration (?) or something else I haven't thought about yet. I'd love some resources that would help me educate myself about these options!

More about me: I have 7-8 years of teaching experience at the university level. I also have about 3 years of experience working in an administrative capacity for the university during my degree. This position included developing curriculum, supervising and training new teachers, collaborating with committees to make decisions about program policy, etc. I loved this job, and I felt I was really good at it, and I want to find out how I might continue this kind of work in another capacity. Are there opportunities to work in government or for universities/colleges to develop/supervise/approve curriculum and policy? How else might I participate in these activities for a living?

I'm well-versed in my own field in the humanities, but not in education specifically, and I'm feeling a bit clueless about how to start researching this. I have done some googling and reading up on programs in education policy and administration, but I haven't quite been able to figure out what specific positions are available and what I might want to apply for or work towards.

I definitely do not want to go back for another PhD, but I may be willing to pick up some brief education related to these positions going forward. I would be interested in working in administrative capacities for K-12, but not teaching for K-12.

Given this, I guess my specific questions are:

1. Do my current qualifications suggest any positions in this arena I might be qualified for? Or, failing that, would a brief amount of education make me well-qualified for a specific position?
2. What is the job market like for these positions? It makes little sense to move from a very competitive field I'm pretty well qualified for to another very competitive field I may be less qualified for!

Sorry for the wall of text. I'm floundering a bit right now and generally going through some scary life transitions as my PhD comes to an end. I would love to land a teaching job in my field, but if I can't, I want to find ways that I can keep making an impact for students and teachers. Thanks for any help you can send my way!
posted by theantikitty to Education (6 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Speaking for myself but echoed by every teacher I know, if you've never actually taught K-12 you are in no way qualified to be a K-12 administrator.

I don't mean to sound negative, but why not stick with your area of expertise? People who have never taught really shouldn't be school administrators.
posted by kinetic at 2:40 PM on February 15, 2015

To clarify: I am primarily interested in how I can transfer these skills to higher education administrative positions that may be open to me, although I am interested in hearing about K-12 opportunities as well, even if I need to do additional work towards them. "Sticking with my area of expertise" is very likely just not going to be an option for me, and I want to expand my interests and opportunities. Thanks! Promise not to thread-sit further.
posted by theantikitty at 2:58 PM on February 15, 2015

Most teaching oriented universities have some kind of administrative department that manages faculty development centered on pedagogy. These are often called the Center for Teaching and Learning, or something like that. You could look for some kind of position within that structure. Similarly, many larger universities have big undergraduate research programs that are housed within an administrative department. That might be another opportunity for a program development type position to consider. For example, my University undergraduate research office is directed full time by a former English professor hired away from a different University. We also have full time administration (former faculty) managing the Honors Program.

So if you want to stay on the academic side of campus, those are the kinds of positions that I could imagine somebody with your background and experience applying for. But it will still be tough, I think, because faculty on the hiring committees for these positions like to see applicants from people who have been full time faculty (demonstrated time in the trenches fighting the good fight so to speak). We generally harbor a certain amount of disdain for administrators without a faculty background moving in on "our territory". It is just the nature of the beast.

Some large universities have full time administrators that manage assessment programs and also accreditation, especially for programs in schools of education. Assessment and accreditation is big. And the big accrediting agencies now require evidence of academic assessment. It might be something to look for. These opportunities are often housed within an Office for Institutional Research, or something like that. Finally, you might throw applications at Assistant Dean positions. The nature and qualifications for this type of position tend to be University specific, but it might be worth a look. And perhaps you could look for opportunities working directly for a large accrediting agency?
posted by Seymour Zamboni at 4:04 PM on February 15, 2015 [1 favorite]

Administrative positions of importance in the university hierarchy typically involve tenured faculty moving into increasingly responsible service roles in campus committees, administrative posts, and positions responsible to deans, chancellors, provosts and the like (working on promotion and tenure, hiring decisions, curriculum, special programs, strategic plans, accreditation self-studies, etc.) Successful performance can open positions like assistant or associate dean of x, y or z. Most colleges and universities operate on a model of significant faculty governance in many areas (like hiring, tenure, curriculum).

The tenured faculty position allows one to return to teaching when there's turnover or a shakeup at the top and you are replaced, and provides the credibility with the faculty required to get anything done.
posted by lathrop at 5:42 PM on February 15, 2015

You might try starting with an academic advising position. Our dept hired a woman with a PhD in my dept area to be the undergraduate advisor and she was very effective, got noticed by the administration and within three years had moved to the deans office in an administrative position. I anticipate she will continue to climb up the admin ladder. What she had going for her was that she had a PhD in the dept discipline and did research on ug advising as part of social psych PhD. There are 1or 2 year certificate courses you might consider but depending on your background you may be able to make a case for lots of ug advising experience and sell yourself that way. I should also say that this woman was very credible that this was what she wanted to do - it wasn't a desperation move but a genuine career choice. The social psych field isn't as bad as humanities for academic positions but its close so I also think she saw the writing on the wall but was also clearly committed and very effective. Good luck.
posted by bluesky43 at 6:30 PM on February 15, 2015 [1 favorite]

I should also say given the previous comments that prior academic experience matters less than the type of experience, at least in our department so having been in a faculty position did not enter into the hiring decision.....
posted by bluesky43 at 6:32 PM on February 15, 2015

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