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Explain how your goals for graduate study relate to your longer-term career plans?


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This what the university wants to know. My long term career goal--for now--is to teach and conduct research at a university after my PhD. But that's it. I don't know what else I can write to relate my goal for graduate study to my "long term career plans".

    I am not sure what else I can add to this. Any ideas are appreciated. 

Edited by thegraydude
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When applying to graduate school, my prior background was in X. I applied to graduate schools stating that my goal is to develop skills in Y and eventually to become proficient at both X and Y so that I can combine techniques from X and Y to solve certain research problems that need applications of both. 

 

Note: here, X and Y are general research techniques, not specific problems or subfields. I don't think it is reasonable for a school to expect you to say you want to research "whatever topic" for the rest of your career! But your application would be much stronger if you could identify some skills you would want for success in your career and connect them to the current program. In my example, the school I applied to had a lot of resources to help me learn "Y".

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As my long term plan is to teach X, how can I show that this PhD is necessary to teach X? Apart from the obvious reason, that universities usually require PhD before you can join as an assistant professor.  This is too blunt to be stated. What 'skills' can I acquire during my PhD--which will help in my long-term goal of teaching--that cannot cannot be acquired without it? I find it highly confusing. 

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What 'skills' can I acquire during my PhD--which will help in my long-term goal of teaching--that cannot cannot be acquired without it? I find it highly confusing. 

 

Well, depending on the kind of teaching that you want to do, it's possible that you don't need a PhD at all. But if you want to teach in a university, then you need a PhD. More specifically, you probably want to specialize in subfield X or teach techniques Y and Z, or start a lab, etc., and you might also specify what kind of institution you want to teach in. I think it's totally fair to have a paragraph that says roughly the following: after I graduate I would like to obtain a job as a university professor, specializing in X. I hope to teach and advise students at the [under]graduate level and work at a SLAC/R1/other institution. Follow that up with a sentence or two stating how Awesome University will give you the necessary preparation to pursue this goal. There is no catch here; it's another way for the school to gauge whether you're choosing to pursue a PhD for the right reasons and whether this program is the right place for you. 

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Well, depending on the kind of teaching that you want to do, it's possible that you don't need a PhD at all. But if you want to teach in a university, then you need a PhD. More specifically, you probably want to specialize in subfield X or teach techniques Y and Z, or start a lab, etc., and you might also specify what kind of institution you want to teach in. I think it's totally fair to have a paragraph that says roughly the following: after I graduate I would like to obtain a job as a university professor, specializing in X. I hope to teach and advise students at the [under]graduate level and work at a SLAC/R1/other institution. Follow that up with a sentence or two stating how Awesome University will give you the necessary preparation to pursue this goal. There is no catch here; it's another way for the school to gauge whether you're choosing to pursue a PhD for the right reasons and whether this program is the right place for you. 

Thanks! This helps me a lot. I specially like the idea of talking about starting my own lab at a university as I have that in mind and I can show that the experience of working in the labs at awesome university will help me not only in acquiring relevant skills, but also in managing my own lab someday. 

Edited by thegraydude
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By the way, would anyone be kind enough to explain what is SLAC/R1/R2 universitities? I used Google but the difference is not clear. 

I wish to do extensive computer security research at a university while teaching grad students, which of these--SLAC/R1/R2--would I be wanting to teach at?  

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In brief,

 

R1 and R2 schools are those that prioritize research, have lots of graduate research programs, and commit a lot of funding towards research. R1 is more research intensive than R2. See: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Research_I_university

 

SLAC is "Small Liberal Arts College" (or sometimes Selective Liberal Arts College). Liberal Arts Colleges are more undergraduate focussed and emphasize a broad well rounded education. They may only have very limited graduate programs and are often not research powerhouses. The "S" emphasizes that the schools are small and/or selective (which also usually mean the student population is small). See: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Liberal_arts_college

 

These classifications are actually no longer used by the organization that created them, but people still use them in "everyday academic" talk. 

 

In the context of this conversation, R1/R2 jobs are going to be more research focussed. You will probably be teaching very large introductory classes at R1 schools. If your aim is teaching at a SLAC school, then research isn't going to be as important and they will value your teaching experience and ability more. If this is your goal, I think it's a good idea to find as many ways to develop your teaching abilities/portfolio as possible (beyond just TAing/grading). SLAC jobs will be primarily teaching, I think; although perhaps someone with more job experience can speak to the differences.

 

One last thing to keep in mind is that these are all very broad classifications. Different R1 schools can be very different from each other etc. Some people like to think of it more like a continuum with R1 and SLAC at the ends.

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