This is too true. Academics face a very confusing career transition.


Of course, it also varies. The post-doc chart is a fairly accurate illustration of my life before getting a position, but the assistant prof chart will depend on what kind of position you land — mine would be much, much heavier on various duties associated with teaching.

The screwy thing is that there is no teaching at all as a post-doc, so the thing we spend most of our time doing now is the one thing we got no training in.


  1. says

    The screwy thing is that there is no teaching at all as a post-doc, so the thing we spend most of our time doing now is the one thing we got no training in.

    This is one of my biggest criticisms of college/university teaching: Basic teacher training is often optional “personal development”. IMO it stems from the devaluing of teachers (“Those who can do, those who can’t don’t”) as well as the idea that if you’Re competent in something you’re automatically competent in teaching it (See the “native speaker dogma” in English as a foreign language teaching).
    As a teaching student I encountered so many bad instructors at university who were clearly competent in their subjects, but they had chosen to study English for example with the goal of earning a MA or PhD in English, not with the goal of teaching English. They were not clear on the goals of their classes and they had no clue about how to create an exam and ask questions. The worst I ever had was an exam where clearly each one of the three questions could have been answered with a single sentence, but that would also have been a clear fail because the instructor wanted something more.

  2. Becca Stareyes says

    The screwy thing is that there is no teaching at all as a post-doc, so the thing we spend most of our time doing now is the one thing we got no training in.

    Yeah. I was lucky in that I ended up getting a lecturer position* at a university that had good professional development programs so I could start filling in the gaps of my skillset. I missed out on learning things like grant-writing from a postdoc, but since I landed in a teaching-focused position (I have a 80-20 split between teaching and research, plus some service in there somewhere), I wish I knew even more about teaching than I do now.

    * Basically full-time teaching, but with a tad more security than adjuncts since I was hired by the year rather than by the course.

  3. kc9oq says

    I think the granularity of the various activities between the 2 graphs is misleading. For example, the big purple section in the left-hand one probably could be broken down into sub-categories: Formulating thesis, experimental design, apparatus setup, data collection, data analysis, experimental re-runs, curve fitting, etc. I never did a post-doc, but during grad school I did my share of teaching.

  4. tbp1 says

    In my discipline, at least, teaching is often a part of a post-doc, although usually it’s not very burdensome, and frequently whatever the person wants to teach, rather than Intro to Whatever 101.

  5. Steven Brown: Man of Mediocrity says

    Speaking as a student, I can say that I’ve never noticed the lack of formal training in teaching amongst my lecturers…

    I can say it, but not with a straight face :P

  6. Rob Grigjanis says

    kc9oq @4: Postdocs don’t do theses.

    tbp1 @5: My postdoc certainly didn’t require teaching duties, but the prof I worked with asked me to provide support (office time for questions) for one of his grad courses. No marking, thank jeebus.

  7. anchor says

    kc9oq: – I really hate to say this. I’m likely to get landed on by the local police for it, but I’m sorry, I can’t resist. It will likely knock me out again in the attempt to make a point (slow as I am in comparison to the swift regulars I so much admire) but I have to make mention of it – yes, and it does happen to be a common artifact of academic training, so it at once will probably rub people the wrong way while remaining on topic.


    I sure hope the sudden recent fad of using the word ‘granularity’ employed to refer to the long-understood principle involved with the fuzziness and/or overlap associated with the margin of error in measured comparison dies a gloriously shrieking death.

    There. Please forgive me.

    I must have come across at least a dozen instances in blogs and articles and casual conversation in just the last few months loftily referring to a ‘granularity’ to otherwise describe everything from a simple overlap or intrinsic fuzziness in a measurement to denoting a crowd of spectators behave at Wrigley Field – I’m not kidding, en masse actually getting called an example of ‘granularity’ — neither which ridiculous extreme, of course, has anything whatsoever to do with GRANULES (and, certainly not in the physical or mathematical sense, or else I would start trying to impart a metric complete with vector/tensor fields on them just to keep their motions under some control and within the realm of signification or MEANING) yet the frequency of the term coming up even in casual conversation on topics utterly unattached to the term – even as a poetic device – is so goddamned stupid I have to suppress gagging.

    Geologists and material scientists would react even more violently to that horrible excuse of an adjective for the blend between measured states with attendant margins of error.

    Please, please, please…

    Why, WHY, must anyone put a thing in “GRANULAR” terms, when you simply mean an overlap, or a blended fuzziness?

    Why should ‘granules’ – in the ‘granular’ aspect of ‘granularity’ – be so important (oops, I almost described it with a very bad-word adjective that would have set off all kinds of alarms I’m sure) to the conveying of a simple idea that shouldn’t need fashion to enhance its power?

    Where did this particular fad-wave come from?

  8. multitool says

    kc9oq #4, I second that.

    Also this chart discriminates against the color blind, and anyone else with less color sensitivity than a pigeon. Is that puce-mauve or mauve-puce?