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Teaching as a career path


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Hi all,

 

I recently finished my undergrad in psychology (w/ a focus on social psychology) and loved it. 

 

I have prepared a relatively strong CV in accordance to doing research, but it's not longer a primary interest of mine. I want to be able to teach the principles of social psychology or a closely related field one day with as little research responsibilities as possible, but would like more information on that career trajectory. 

 

I am assuming I will probably need a phd because of the competition on the job market nowadays, but figure I should focus my attention on programs that allow for a teaching emphasis, as opposed to ones that live by strict research rules.

 

So some questions:

 

1. What kind of programs should I be looking at? Broadly, specifically?

2. What is the job market like? There seems to be a rise of part-time positions, but how would one securing a full time position?

3. How stable are these full-time positions?

4. What kind of establishments/institutions are these positions at?

5. What are some best positions that I should aim for down the line?

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A PhD is a research degree, and even if you go on to become a lecturer, you are going to find it very hard to find a position that is specific enough to teaching social psychology. Usually lecturers don't get much of a choice in what they lecture.

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Guest joshw4288

If you are not interested in research at all I encourage you to think about whether a Ph.D. is really for you. Just to obtain the Ph.D. you are going to spend 5 years with a heavy research load. Once obtained, your best bet would be finding a position at a liberal arts college but this is incredibly narrow and will make finding a job incredibly difficult. You can adjunct night classes after work. I know several adjuncts that work in the private sector and do this because they enjoy teaching. I'm not sure you will ever find a position where teaching is your sole responsibility within a full time academic position. This is not the primary role of academia. 

 

Furthermore, I would suggest going to your department and discussing this with the advisors. They are there to answer these types of questions. Talk to your professors, although most academics will likely tell you that if don't want to do research, don't get a Ph.D. It is after all a research degree. 

Edited by joshw4288
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To be blunt, the career you're hoping for doesn't exist. 

 

To teach university-level psychology you almost always need a PhD, which is a research degree. This is because the underlying philosophy of academia is that students should learn from people who are active researchers (professor = research + teaching + service).  It used to be that maybe you could get away with a master's to teach at a community college somewhere, but there are so many PhDs on the market that I think this isn't true anymore.

 

If you tell PhD programs "I'm interested in teaching, not research," you won't get accepted. And even if you do get in, slog through 5 years of research, and graduate, there are very very few teaching jobs with any job security. If you just teach, you're probably doomed to contract positions that pay terribly and are renewed term-to-term. Most adjucts do it because they (1) have something else and like teaching on the side (2) want an academic job eventually and are doing this to pay the bills and stay in the system.

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Get a masters in education and teach at the high school level. That is really your only option. As others have said, a PhD is a research degree, not a teaching degree.

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Really sorry about this... but yeah. The only places that are teaching social psychology are colleges/universities, and the only way to teach there is to be a teacher/researcher hybrid (AKA professor). There are high school teaching general psychology, but usually just a single AP/IB section, so you would have to teach other subjects as well. I'd recommend doing some real soul-searching and really think hard about why you like psychology, why you like teaching, and see if you can explore these interests in a different way.

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While I generally agree with what others have said, I also want to point out that there are lots of small, non-research-oriented institutions (small colleges, community colleges, etc) that hire psychology professors.  These jobs are often viewed as less prestigious by researchers in psychology, but might be what you are looking for.  In general, these places would still require you to do research, but the pressure would be much less than at a research institution, and there is a much bigger focus on teaching than at a research school (where teaching is required but often not stressed).  Most (if not all) will still require a PhD, which as others have pointed out, will require lots of research. Some of these smaller schools also grant PhDs -- but I would see where the people they are hiring did their PhDs before I attended one.

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While I generally agree with what others have said, I also want to point out that there are lots of small, non-research-oriented institutions (small colleges, community colleges, etc) that hire psychology professors.  These jobs are often viewed as less prestigious by researchers in psychology, but might be what you are looking for.  In general, these places would still require you to do research, but the pressure would be much less than at a research institution, and there is a much bigger focus on teaching than at a research school (where teaching is required but often not stressed).  Most (if not all) will still require a PhD, which as others have pointed out, will require lots of research. Some of these smaller schools also grant PhDs -- but I would see where the people they are hiring did their PhDs before I attended one.

 

I sort of want to second what Angua said.  I attend one of those small, non-research oriented universities (as an undergrad.)  My institution only grants bachelors and a few master's degrees.  All of the faculty have PhDs, and do some amount of research.  Although, granted, they do far less than would be expected at PhD-granting R1 institution.

 

Even though there is not the heavy focus on research, if faculty want tenure they have to be conducting research.  Also there is an expectation that they will advise students on student research and therefore should be highly competent in the process and enjoy it enough to work with students.  Even if the faculty don't want to do heavy research, some of these students (e.g., yours truly) do want a research career and rely on their current faculty to mentor them and to help prepare them for applying to and getting into PhD programs.

Edited by Bren2014
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Thank you all for your responses. I figured community colleges and small colleges (is there an exact definition of what this is?) was going to be the way to go. I will reach out to the teachers working there. I am optimistic that there is a demand for these types of professors because those who end up getting their PhD with a strong research concentration will find a research heavy position inside or outside of academia before taking a teaching-emphasized position. Although a good point was raised that the college itself will want researchers in order to help get grant money, I imagine these comm colleges and smaller colleges will emphasize this much much less. 

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I think a lot of people with teaching-only duties go for 'adjunct professor' positions. maybe you can aim for something like that?

 

The problem is that those usually have virtually no job security and near-fast-food-level wages.

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The problem is that those usually have virtually no job security and near-fast-food-level wages.

 

Oh, I know. I was assuming the OP was doing it for the love of teaching only, not to make a living. The fact of the matter is that (as it was mentioned before) in academia no research = no grants = no real money to be made.  BUT, on the bright side, adjunct profs only have teaching duties, which is what the OP is after. 

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Thank you all for your responses. I figured community colleges and small colleges (is there an exact definition of what this is?) was going to be the way to go. I will reach out to the teachers working there. I am optimistic that there is a demand for these types of professors because those who end up getting their PhD with a strong research concentration will find a research heavy position inside or outside of academia before taking a teaching-emphasized position.

 

That's not a good assumption to make.  The truth is that the job market is so overburdened right now that people are taking any job that they can find.  So a lot of PhD holders who would ordinarily prefer to work at Georgia State or UGA are going to Kennesaw State or Middle Georgia State College because they can't get a job at one of the former two.  While it's not as bad in psychology as it is in some other fields, I wouldn't assume that community colleges or small teaching colleges will be easy to get into.

 

ALSO remember that in order to get these jobs you do have to complete a 5-6 year PhD, in which you will be expected to do research.

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Oh, I know. I was assuming the OP was doing it for the love of teaching only, not to make a living. The fact of the matter is that (as it was mentioned before) in academia no research = no grants = no real money to be made.  BUT, on the bright side, adjunct profs only have teaching duties, which is what the OP is after. 

 

By coincidence I came across this article today: "Broward College Adjunct Professors Make Maximum $16,000 a Year; They Are Now Unionizing, May Strike". Doesn't get much worse than that!  I made more money as  a PhD student.

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