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Is R1 the right path for me?


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In addition to what rising_star and TakeruK have said, I actually think it's more difficult to move up from an RU/H ("R2") or DRU (Doctoral/Research University) university than you think it is. I suppose it depends a lot on the kind of RU/H you're at - there are some RU/Hs that approach smaller/less well-funded RU/VH institutions in terms of research funding and tenure expectations. But if you go teach at a regional state university at the RU/H or DRU level, and you're expected to teach a 3/2 teaching load, in 3 years when you're on the market for other positions you're competing with colleagues who went to RU/VH (and the handful of top RU/H) universities where they got a teaching reduction in their first 3 years to 1/1 or 1/0 (and even after that are only expected to teach a 2/2). They had way more time to write and publish the 2-4 publications a year that keep them competitive for RU/VH jobs. They also have way more infrastructure to write the grants that make them competitive for the RU/VH jobs.

In addition, your institution has less money overall, so your startup funding might be less, which may mean that your lab has less of the equipment and support (in terms of doctoral students and research assistants) that you need. And maybe your department attracts less capable doctoral students to help you churn out your paper - or maybe you have no doctoral students at all.

It's not that it's impossible, but it's very difficult.

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So, I'm more like Eigen in that I knew after the first year of my PhD that I didn't want a job at a R1. For me, it was the realization that I didn't want to have to work 50-70 hours

Wait a second here. If I am understanding you correctly, you applied for a position at one nonprofit, and weren't a great fit there, so now you have completely given up on nonprofits altogether and de

OK, in my response to this, I want to make clear that I am not trying to convince you to apply to nonprofits, @wildviolet, nor am I trying to dissuade you from applying to faculty positions. I complet

So, I'm starting my first TA position this term, and I'm really enjoying it. It's gotten to the point that I would like to teach as part of my career. However, I don't like the idea of being in an R1 university (despite doing my PhD in one) because of limited involvement in teaching and actual research (someone mentioned being the middle management, and that is how I view it as well). I don't mind the long hours and shift in work/life balance, but I really enjoy being hands on with my research and getting to know the students that I'm teaching. So, my question is: is this a common sentiment? Will applying for TT at a small research university be a good route, based on what I've mentioned above? I'm only in my first year of my PhD, so things can and will change, but it's worth considering at this point.

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33 minutes ago, GradSchoolTruther said:

Is an R1 realistic? Do most alumni land R1 jobs?

Does asking rhetorical questions really help further the conversation? How about vague one-liners?

 

23 hours ago, Dedi said:

So, I'm starting my first TA position this term, and I'm really enjoying it. It's gotten to the point that I would like to teach as part of my career. However, I don't like the idea of being in an R1 university (despite doing my PhD in one) because of limited involvement in teaching and actual research (someone mentioned being the middle management, and that is how I view it as well). I don't mind the long hours and shift in work/life balance, but I really enjoy being hands on with my research and getting to know the students that I'm teaching. So, my question is: is this a common sentiment? Will applying for TT at a small research university be a good route, based on what I've mentioned above? I'm only in my first year of my PhD, so things can and will change, but it's worth considering at this point.

I don't think anyone here can answer the "common sentiment" question. What are you hoping would be different at a small research university compared to bigger ones? Is it interaction with the students or research/teaching requirements and how they are weighed for tenure? I'd say you should try to investigate and find out how that works for your field in some of the schools you have in mind, because it seems too vague for us to be able to answer. These days even teaching-heavy institutions seem to want a serious research component in their candidates' portfolios, but of course there is less of that in those schools. The question is probably whether you would be expected to bring in your own grants, (and if so, how much money we're talking about). The higher the teaching load, the lower the research expectation. As a very general rule, though, I would expect that smaller departments would allow you more one-on-one time with students in both a research and teaching capacity, yes. Even in larger schools, though, you could be that accessible faculty member who students enjoy talking with. It might not be a requirement, but if you make yourself available, students will seek you out. 

You're only a first-year, so I would give this more time and try to figure out how much of a research component you'd like to have in your future job, and go from there. If you want a lot of both, that probably means you want something more in the research university realm. If you want to concentrate more on teaching with little/no research, then it's the teaching schools. It's early for you to be making decisions, in my opinion. You should at least get your feet wet with one large project, then you can think again. You might also think about finding a way to teach your own course, which is quite different from TAing for one (though the fact that you are enjoying that does mean you're likely to also enjoy being the primary instructor of a course).  

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Every Ph.D.-granting program can be considered an R1 program. I find little need to post 500 words when my questions suffice. You can't expect to have a good chance getting a job at an R1 of previous graduates of the program haven't placed there. Also, is the OP at a highly ranked program?

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7 minutes ago, GradSchoolTruther said:

Every Ph.D.-granting program can be considered an R1 program. I find little need to post 500 words when my questions suffice. You can't expect to have a good chance getting a job at an R1 of previous graduates of the program haven't placed there. Also, is the OP at a highly ranked program?

The OP asks: So, my question is: When did you decide that the R1 path was for you? Did you have a lightbulb moment?

How does her explaining her pedigree help you answer a question about your decision process and your situation? If you're trying to say that you are at a low-ranked program that makes the R1 path non-viable for you, say that. If you are trying to probe whether it's a waste of your time to answer her question, well, then, don't bother. Even your one-liners are already a waste of everybody's time.

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22 hours ago, GradSchoolTruther said:

Every Ph.D.-granting program can be considered an R1 program. I find little need to post 500 words when my questions suffice. You can't expect to have a good chance getting a job at an R1 of previous graduates of the program haven't placed there. Also, is the OP at a highly ranked program?

That's actually not true. There are quite a few PhD granting institutions that are R2 (RU-H) and not R1 (RU-VH). 

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Any time you see someone on a message board calling themselves a "truther" you know it's going to be shits and giggles all the way down. And by "shits and giggles" I mean unfunny efforts at trolling. 

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  • 1 month later...

That's actually not true. There are quite a few PhD granting institutions that are R2 (RU-H) and not R1 (RU-VH).

Exactly. And there is, in fact, an entire tier for universities that grant PhDs but are not research-intensive universities. They used to be called "Doctoral Research Universities," but as of the February 2016 update, the Carnegie Institute has gone back to the R1/R2/R3 designations:

R1: Doctoral Universities – Highest research activity
R2: Doctoral Universities – Higher research activity
R3: Doctoral Universities – Moderate research activity

http://carnegieclassifications.iu.edu/classification_descriptions/basic.php

Like anything else, they're a range - R2s include the College of William and Mary, Lehigh University, and Dartmouth College in addition places like Cleveland State University and Nova Southeastern University. R3s include places like Oakland University and Lipscomb University but also Clark University, Rochester Institute of Technology, and San Francisco State University.

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  • 3 months later...

Well, it's been six months!

I successfully defended my dissertation proposal, and the plan is to defend the dissertation in 9 months and graduate in Spring 2017. And, my advisor has started talking with me about jobs. There was one job that came up in San Francisco at an informal educational institution, and I just couldn't think of how I could afford to live in the Bay Area. That is, live in the East Bay and commute to SF. Just thinking about it made me feel stressed out. So, no applying for jobs in places where I couldn't afford to live, no matter how desirable they may seem!

There's another job at a non-profit on the East Coast. Seems affordable to live in the area, and the job description is a perfect fit for me (or, rather I think I'm the person they're looking for). I'm simultaneously excited to move to a new place and sad to leave friends.

As I'm writing my dissertation in the next 9 months, I think I'll figure out what the best career path is for me (at this moment in time). I'm also working on several manuscripts. And if I can't figure out how to write fast, then going the non-academic route may be best as I'm not sure I could write fast enough to earn tenure.

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1 hour ago, wildviolet said:

So, no applying for jobs in places where I couldn't afford to live, no matter how desirable they may seem!

Maybe our fields are too different, but I was surprised by the pay rate for some of the jobs in my field. Except for prize fellowships, most positions do not publish their salaries (you can often negotiate) and instead say something like "pay will depend on ability and experience". So, the advice I've got for going on the job market this fall is that unless the published pay rate is definitely too low to live on, don't sell yourself short. Definitely do not accept a job offer for a place you can't afford to live, but don't prevent yourself from applying if the job is otherwise a good match. Maybe you will end up with a salary where you are able to afford it!

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8 hours ago, TakeruK said:

Maybe our fields are too different, but I was surprised by the pay rate for some of the jobs in my field. Except for prize fellowships, most positions do not publish their salaries (you can often negotiate) and instead say something like "pay will depend on ability and experience". So, the advice I've got for going on the job market this fall is that unless the published pay rate is definitely too low to live on, don't sell yourself short. Definitely do not accept a job offer for a place you can't afford to live, but don't prevent yourself from applying if the job is otherwise a good match. Maybe you will end up with a salary where you are able to afford it!

Good point!

I've met the person who posted the position, so I emailed them to ask indirectly about salary... and the person said that the salary was enough to afford to live in the East Bay, which I assume means it's not enough to live on in SF and so a commute would be necessary, and it's the idea of the commute, whether by car or public transportation, that kills me.

Now, the non-profit position advertises their salary as commensurate with academic or K-12 administrator positions, by which I infer they mean assistant professor or principal salaries. I'm a bit more comfortable with that. Although, like you suggested, perhaps I should check it out first before saying no. 

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Ah, okay, having direct info is good! Most of the times, the salaries for postdocs in my field have a large range, like $45,000 to $70,000 and that makes a huge difference.

The advice/lesson I mentioned before came from a friend who was on the job market. There was a position in the SF area (but not in SF itself) and while the "typical" pay for this position was just under $50,000 based on national average for this employer, the salary for this particular position got some kind of cost of living adjustment so it was more like $65,000. Rent in this area is something like $1800/month for a 1 bedroom apartment, so it's only affordable with the increased salary.

And now this is just personal choices but I wouldn't mind a commute up to ~45 minutes to live close to a big city like SF. For me, the appeals of a large city outweigh the hassle of the commute. Also, even if I could afford a 1 bedroom place in the city, I think I would choose a bigger living space and the commute!

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UPDATE: So I tried applying for a position at a non-profit, and after the phone interview, my application was rejected. So, now I have no choice but to put all my energy into faculty positions, at R1 and R2 universities. I think I came off as too research-y for the non-profit (which is not heavily focused on research), so they may have done me a favor in the long run by rejecting my application. Because, ultimately, I have a very research-oriented frame of mind, and it's hard to turn it off and think only in terms of application rather than generation of knowledge. Also, if I'm honest with myself, I was hoping to avoid the academic job search, which is much harder than other job searches. So, this turn of events may be the universe telling me that I need to take the more difficult path and perhaps come out the other side stronger than I was before!

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On 10/15/2016 at 8:27 PM, Eigen said:

It's been a long time since the start of this, but have you completely ruled out small liberal arts colleges? Or are you just focused on R1/R2 schools?

R1/R2 schools only because typically those institutions offer jobs that I'm qualified for (within my specialty in education). And, I can apply for NSF grants, so I need institutional support for grant writing and research. Someone who does something like educational philosophy may be able to get a job at a small liberal arts college, but I've been trained to work with prospective teachers, and usually the large state universities have those programs.

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3 hours ago, wildviolet said:

R1/R2 schools only because typically those institutions offer jobs that I'm qualified for (within my specialty in education). And, I can apply for NSF grants, so I need institutional support for grant writing and research. Someone who does something like educational philosophy may be able to get a job at a small liberal arts college, but I've been trained to work with prospective teachers, and usually the large state universities have those programs.

I'd look at some top SLACs, I think they'll provide more of what you're looking for than a lot of R2s. 

Our grants office, for instance, is very on the ball, and we have a pretty robust education program. Some SLACs that I've applied to even have fairly robust M.Ed programs as their sole graduate program. 

It's also worth noting that there are a lot more NSF grants awarded to *good* SLACs than mediocre R2s. 

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4 hours ago, Eigen said:

I'd look at some top SLACs, I think they'll provide more of what you're looking for than a lot of R2s. 

Our grants office, for instance, is very on the ball, and we have a pretty robust education program. Some SLACs that I've applied to even have fairly robust M.Ed programs as their sole graduate program. 

It's also worth noting that there are a lot more NSF grants awarded to *good* SLACs than mediocre R2s. 

Thanks! Will do!

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Wait a second here. If I am understanding you correctly, you applied for a position at one nonprofit, and weren't a great fit there, so now you have completely given up on nonprofits altogether and decided to focus your energy on faculty positions?

I mean, if you really want to be a professor that is your call - you can direct your own job search. But if the only reason you gave up on nonprofits is because this one nonprofit rejected you for being too research-focused...don't!

First of all, every nonprofit organization is completely different, and some will have more of a focus on or appreciation for research than others. There are lots of giant nonprofits that do lots of education research - ACT, the Educational Testing Service, and the College Board are just the first three that pop into mind. There are lots of think tanks and policy agencies that do educational research. There might be state school boards and administrative bodies that would benefit from an educational researcher. Education is one of those fields where there are lots of researchers in lots of places other than academia. If you wanted a research-focused, non-academic position you could find one.

Second, learning to tailor your resume/CV and your frame of mind into a more applied one is a skill. It's not something that's innately born into you. Yes, it can be difficult to switch gears, but that doesn't mean it's impossible. You have to take certain steps to learn how to do it, but it's definitely doable. Of course, again, whether that's something you want or not is really up to you.

If you are still uncertain about academia I would not take this one rejection as some kind of cosmic sign from the universe that you were meant to be in academia. It's simply a job rejection from one job that just wasn't the right fit.

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On 10/22/2016 at 0:31 AM, juilletmercredi said:

 

Wait a second here. If I am understanding you correctly, you applied for a position at one nonprofit, and weren't a great fit there, so now you have completely given up on nonprofits altogether and decided to focus your energy on faculty positions?

I mean, if you really want to be a professor that is your call - you can direct your own job search. But if the only reason you gave up on nonprofits is because this one nonprofit rejected you for being too research-focused...don't!

First of all, every nonprofit organization is completely different, and some will have more of a focus on or appreciation for research than others. There are lots of giant nonprofits that do lots of education research - ACT, the Educational Testing Service, and the College Board are just the first three that pop into mind. There are lots of think tanks and policy agencies that do educational research. There might be state school boards and administrative bodies that would benefit from an educational researcher. Education is one of those fields where there are lots of researchers in lots of places other than academia. If you wanted a research-focused, non-academic position you could find one.

Second, learning to tailor your resume/CV and your frame of mind into a more applied one is a skill. It's not something that's innately born into you. Yes, it can be difficult to switch gears, but that doesn't mean it's impossible. You have to take certain steps to learn how to do it, but it's definitely doable. Of course, again, whether that's something you want or not is really up to you.

If you are still uncertain about academia I would not take this one rejection as some kind of cosmic sign from the universe that you were meant to be in academia. It's simply a job rejection from one job that just wasn't the right fit.

Thanks! I really appreciate your comments. The kind of research I do is qualitative, so places like ACT and ETS won't necessarily be the best fit for me (although I haven't been looking too hard there). Part of the reason I have given up on non-profits is that I really want to direct my own research agenda. As I'm currently writing my research statements, I'm excited about different directions I could go.

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  • 3 weeks later...

OK, in my response to this, I want to make clear that I am not trying to convince you to apply to nonprofits, @wildviolet, nor am I trying to dissuade you from applying to faculty positions. I completely respect that choice! It sounds like it might be the right one for you. I'm merely offering my response because I think your comment has some interesting misconceptions - some of the same misconceptions I had about non-academic work myself when I started looking - and I just want to offer a response to anyone who might be making the choice.

Qualitative work: Many, many non-academic institutions do and appreciate qualitative work. I have mixed-methods training from grad school, but when I started applying for non-academic jobs in the private sector I assumed that my qual background would go unused and undervalued. Not so! In fact, I think I do more qualitative research now than I did in graduate school, lol, and my qualitative training was a huge factor in my getting the job I currently have an the value I have on my team - I'm one of the few formally trained qual people on my team and we need qual work done seriously all of the time. I do qualitative research in education currently in support of a product that I support (a well-known video game that recently released an educational version).

Autonomy: This is something I've been reflecting on a lot recently. It's certainly true that non-academic researchers have less autonomy than academic ones, at least big-picture. But I have a lot of independence as a researcher in my role, and many non-academic researchers do. It just depends on which kind you value.

I think if you (general you, not wildviolet specifically) need to direct all aspects of your research agenda - from what you study to how you do it to how you report the results - and you want little to no oversight, and you'd be unhappy otherwise, then an academic career is probably the only way to go.

But if you're willing to accept something different, there's a spectrum of autonomy. Think tanks are going to be the most like universities and academic settings in terms of the kind of autonomy you have (I'm thinking RAND, RTI, Booz Allen Hamilton, American Enterprise Institute, CATO, etc.) A lot of researchers at those places operate almost exactly like academics, in that they have to compete for grant funding (either internal or federal or both), have almost complete control over their research agendas and methods, publish regularly, etc. A lot of nonprofits, NGOs and agencies assign you a specific research area (say, income inequality and education) and you conduct research within that area, but you get to decide how and what exactly you investigate.

I think my job is somewhere in the middle. In my corporate, private-sector job, I am assigned to a project but then have the autonomy to conduct research within that project. So for example, my job might be to give product support to a specific game(s) or franchise, but I decide what that research support looks like, plan out the studies I'm going to conduct, how I'm going to build relationships with my team stakeholders, what the research priorities are for those games, etc. I can also propose spearheading new horizontal lines of research - like research into online multiplayer gaming or streaming games or e-sports or something - but the research has to be related to the business goals of company and I need to make a good case for how it'll help the company operate towards our end goals. That sounds super corporate, but honestly it's really not that much different (and honestly, far easier) than writing a grant. I'm quite good at it, it turns out, and really it involves more of a presentation or a discussion instead of spending 8 months writing a 6-page grant :D

Again, I am not trying to convince anyone! Just offering some nuggets from the non-academic world.

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Thanks, juilletmercredi! I think your insights are valuable. I was just talking with a friend today who is working on an education-focused project at a public health non-profit. She didn't know you could do such a thing! So, yes, I agree that there's a lot more out there.

The autonomy question is an interesting one. I think I would prefer more rather than less autonomy, and so it seems like academia is the way to go. I had looked at research positions in non-profits, but I'd have to work on their projects first and then eventually apply for funding to work on my own projects. I haven't completely ruled out non-profits, but one issue is that the non-profits I'm most interested in are located in an expensive area that I'm not sure I could afford to live in anyway.

So, in terms of academia--I have three phone/Skype interviews so far! Two are R2, and one is R1. I'm expecting to hear back from more institutions during the next few weeks.

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