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Professors/Faculty, How Did You Get Where You Are?

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ThatPsyGuy

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I recently finished up with some interviews for PhD programs (I believe I did great and I may be getting offers soon). I had some great conversations with a lot of the faculty and working in academia came up frequently. I was always interested in being a professor but after the interviews, it's all that's been in my head alongside research.

So I wanted to ask, how did you get into your position?
What's a day (academic year as well if you're generous) in a life like for you?
Got any tips or advice for aspiring PhD students?
What do you do outside of work hours?
 

RejectClinical

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Never accepted, but an offer was made that I turned down solely because of salary. I think a big thing depends on specialty. If you're a non clinical PhD or even a clinical PhD, the job market is rough. Shockingly, neuropsych PhD faculty jobs are in way more supply (and less demand because most neuropsychs dont want that lifestyle because the pay is so much less than clinical work). That would be my biggest thing: specialize in something that departments want where there is very little competition. With that said, the faculty job market 10 years ago wasn't nearly as bad as it is now. Same with clinical psych phd programs...very competitive. Who knows what things could look like going forward.
 
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WisNeuro

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Never accepted, but an offer was made that I turned down solely because of salary. I think a big thing depends on specialty. If you're a non clinical PhD or even a clinical PhD, the job market is rough. Shockingly, neuropsych PhD faculty jobs are in way more supply (and less demand because most neuropsychs dont want that lifestyle because the pay is so much less than clinical work). That would be my biggest thing: specialize in something that departments want where there is very little competition. With that said, the faculty job market 10 years ago wasn't nearly as bad as it is now. Same with clinical psych phd programs...very competitive. Who knows what things could look like going forward.

Yeah, I can vouch for the neuropsych stuff. I see some positions pop up here and there, but they don't appeal to private practice people who don't want to drop down to 25-50% of their current net income. And, even for salaried folks in hospital settings, it's usually like 75% of their current income for longer work hours. Just speaking for the median level. I do know some neuro people in more academic settings who do pretty well, but these are people who can usually draw in big grants, or have a side gig doing consulting or legal work.
 

Ollie123

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Current Position: Busted butt in grad school learning everything I could with a focus on topics I knew would set me up for long-term success in a lab with a history of people getting academic jobs. Focused on developing a research program in an area I knew had a lot of funding being thrown at it, building a diverse methodological portfolio and learning skills that are relevant no matter what you do in science (e.g. grant writing) and make it easier to pivot. Between that and the diverse methods, I wasn't limited to psychology department jobs and could conceivably have worked in neuroscience, multiple medical departments, nursing, epidemiology, pharmacology or any number of other departments. Ended up spending 4 years on faculty in the psychiatry department of an extremely prestigious but not very supportive medical school. Decided soft money was too anxiety-provoking. Applied very selectively (2 jobs) one year not expecting it to lead anywhere with the intent of going hard onto the market the following year. Ended up getting both offers and had several folks who learned I was looking to leave try to "create" faculty appointments for me. One was a bit of a "unicorn" in terms of position and benefits and everything else seemed good so I jumped on it. You won't typically get things like this in a psychology department, but you can do pretty darn well outside it. Work-life balance is of course a separate discussion:)

What's a day like: Well, right now annoying paperwork and meetings all day, every day. I'm still getting launched here and am crazy-understaffed though, so that's a big part of it. I imagine year 2 will be better but still a little rocky and hope things will be running smoothly by year 3.

Tips: Won't speak to folks on a clinical path, but if you are on a science path - focus on learning methods over content. Its MUCH easier to gain content expertise yourself and/or find collaborators with adequate content expertise than methodological expertise. Learn math and coding. At least learn "about" machine learning even if learning to do it isn't feasible. Learn to write grants. If you bring in dollars, your career options open up dramatically.

Outside Work Hours: Well, right now we're focused on keeping our new baby (and ourselves) alive. Otherwise, gym, tennis, cooking and time with friends. Once upon a time that would have also included travel but the past couple years not so much (for obvious reasons).

Edit: Based on the neuro comments above I actually checked the 2020 Sweet salary survey (I'm not a neuropsychologist). I should outpace the median by years in practice pretty handily and track/exceed the mean, its really only the upper echelon I'd have no hope of matching unless I climb to university president level (which I'm not sure any amount of money could convince me to do). I also don't know how representative this survey is though. I'm paid better than most, but I certainly know others at my level doing significantly better. The lifestyle and day-to-day will look very, very different across these paths though.
 
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calimich

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So I wanted to ask, how did you get into your position?
Associate professor in an undergrad psych dept at a SLAC, very nearly tenured and the only licensed psychologist on the undergrad faculty.

Spent two years on the job market, overlapping with clinical internship and postdoc (2 years at a UCC). I didn’t get any interviews year one. Year two was much different, many phone interviews, several campus visits, two offers. I was somewhat geographically selective when I applied and accepted that it would likely limit my options. Similar to applying to doc school, I looked for schools that were a good fit for me and for departments who seemed to value what I could offer. I was not interested in a research heavy institution (R1) and focused on R2s, smaller schools, and MA programs. Twice in the process I had two campus visits to the same institution, one for an undergrad position the other for a grad position and I realized I much preferred the undergrad positions. I was elated to receive an offer which didn’t require us to move again (my wife was ~6months pregnant while I was interviewing).

Before all that, I had 3 publications in grad school and a couple posters a year, also facilitated round table discussions and gave paper talks at student friendly conferences later in my grad school life. I was a teaching assistant (rather than a research assistant) during my doc school years, and had the opportunity to co teach several undergrad classes. My final year before leaving for internship I taught intro to psych at the local community college. I defended my dissertation before I started internship. My UCC was extremely supportive and I co authored a paper during internship year and had research time as a postdoc, resulting in a poster. The idea was to support my trajectory to faculty and maintain scholarly productivity even during the clinically focused training years. I also was a high school science teacher for 5 years prior to grad school and served in the Peace Corps.
 
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DynamicDidactic

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So I wanted to ask, how did you get into your position?
I pursued clinical b/c I was worried I would not be able to get an academic position after graduating. I even applied to some developmental programs originally. In hindsight, I am very glad I pursued clinical no matter where I ended up. I finished my doctorate and did my internship at an AMC. Did not enjoy the AMC. Completed a 2-year postdoc at a large liberal arts and sciences university that was research focused but let me specialize in a clinical area. I am on a 2-body system and accepted my first academic job at a master's-level university that is small-medium sized. Really did not enjoy the position for many administrative reasons. After 2 years, accepted a different job for a large brand name university system but at a smaller campus. Better job, much better administration, and lesser teaching load. At the moment, I am becoming a bit more productive on the research end and thinking about another move eventually but regionally limited due to the 2-body situation.

What's a day (academic year as well if you're generous) in a life like for you?
Days vary a lot. I have a pretty decent commute and a kiddo. Some days are go-go-go but other are more relaxed. I typically spend 4 days on campus. The longer I teach the less time I have to put into class preps (which is the most time consuming task, each class takes a minimum of 3 hours but can take 5 if I had the time and making test isn't as easy as I thought). Of course, sometimes I (stupidly) decide to take on a new prep. Committee work is actually starting to take up a lot of time as I build up to tenure. In the summertime all I do is travel and write, it is very nice. Since I load up my weeks and try not to work on weekends anymore, during the week it can get very much like grad school where I am sacrificing sleep to get my lectures prepped and assignments graded (I hate grading). Student experiences vary and can be very reinforcing but also soul sucking.
Got any tips or advice for aspiring PhD students?
Do not procrastinate. Find a program and advisor that are the best fit for your personality. DO NOT GET INTO DEBT! Your peers could eventually end up your collaborators later on (I work with numerous people I met in grad school). Figure out what you do best while in grad school. get teaching experience and make sure to publish something before getting out. Don't stress about your research in grad school, it will definitely change when you get out.
What do you do outside of work hours?
Adult **** like taking care of a house, getting oil changes on cars, and entertaining the growing child. Hobbies become harder but I still try to partake in my beer hobby. For many of us that chose this route, we take a long time off real adulting stuff (not all but many), so nowadays the outside of work stuff includes remodeling bathrooms and figuring out how to improve my house, looking at interest rates when the pandemic hits, figuring our retirement savings and college savings, and so on.
 
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erg923

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Just to add a little bit of a different perspective:

I published rather mildly in grad school (3 pubs and 6 posters/conference papers) and generally less than some (many?) of my classmates. After the clinical internship year, I took a "Visiting Assistant Professor of Psychology" position at a SLAC in my hometown that was slated to turn into a tenure-track position after the first year.... pending anticipated funds and no substantial performance problems. This was almost 10 years ago now.

In the end, after the first year, I simply could not justify the Assistant Professor salary given this particular SLACs workload/classload, and was especially chagrined when I found out starting salary at the local VA was only slightly below that of a tenured colleague/mentor of mine who had been with the college for over 10 years. I was not really into the "hustle" of working weekends or building a consulting or private practice after my 7-8 hour academic day ended. Switched to VA. 5 years later switched out for a fully-remote/WTF clinical, administrative, and leadership (somewhat) role in the behavioral health managed care industry. Substantial salary bump from my VA GS-13. 40 hour/week with built in clinical time of 8 hours/week (so 32 to the company and 8 hours to the practice pursuit of your choice), if i wanted to pursue that. The clinical practice component is now actually "required" though. No regrets at all.
 
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AcronymAllergy

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One thing I would add that those currently in different variants of academia can correct if I'm mistaken--it's always seemed "easier" to start in a research/academic career and then pivot to clinical than vice-versa. I know perhaps a small handful of folks whose careers were initially entirely or almost entirely clinical and who then took academic positions, but it's much more typically been the opposite. Probably in no small part because it can be tough to keep up a productive (by academic standards) research history, and nearly impossible to have a consistent history of research funding, when your job is 100% clinical.
 
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calimich

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What's a day (academic year as well if you're generous) in a life like for you?
This has changed for me over the years and as others have said, there is lots of variation in how academics spend their days depending on type of institution, department culture, social location...

Our regular teaching load is 6 courses/year, minus any course releases or buyouts, and we have 2 14-week semesters and an accelerated 4-week winter term. So for me that's always translated to 3 classes each fall and spring. I prefer mornings and my teaching schedule has remained MWF 8-1 (3 classes, 2 sections back-to-back, ~90 min break, then a different course, ~20 students/course). I'm typically on campus by 6:30. The time before class is for email, fine tuning the day's lecture, and other admin tasks, afternoons are most commonly faculty/committee meetings, class prep/grading, and student meetings, including meeting with my undergraduate research team. I've had a couple semesters with course releases and I've always used them for my last class, so those semesters I teach 8-10:30 and get more research & writing done. I started out coming to campus 4days/week, that has dropped to 3 as my course prep/grading time has dropped significantly and I got licensed and opened a small practice. I'm off campus by 4 most days, maybe later the first few years, and the past year I've gotten comfortable leaving directly after my last class on Fridays. I literally walk straight to my car after class, no stopping by the office. The first 2 or 3 years I worked some Saturdays to catch up on grading, prep, or to work on manuscripts and now I'll sometimes squeeze an extra hour out of Mondays by getting to campus ~5:30. My morning commute is about 25 mins, close to double that on the way home.

As far as the academic year, it's not much different on the faculty side compared to the student side. It ramps up quickly, hits an almost unstainable pace, acceleration slows, and then, it's over. Rinse. Repeat. For me, conference applications are late fall, acceptances in the new year, attend late spring and late summer. I've taken students to the WPA conference almost every year (we're planning to go to Portland this year, anyone else?) and twice to APA. I've also attended STP a few times.

Winter and summer breaks are very different. I rarely go to campus over winter, a day or two to prep, three maybe. Summer I usually get to campus once per week to write and work on research. We have a funded 10-week summer research program which I've had students accepted to each summer (pays for them to live and work on campus and a stipend for mentors). There is student programming each Wednesday, so I usually meet with my students that day also; the past several years I've volunteered to lead mental health and career counseling workshops. This upcoming summer is the first where I've officially opted out of the summer research program, although I imagine I'll be back. I taught summer session my first year. It paid well, but I doubt I'll do it again. The one clinical day stays constant throughout most of the summer, with a few breaks for camping and road trips.

The first three years were hard. I created a new course, significantly altered three others, restructured the department's clinical/counseling curriculum sequence, got some undergraduate-accessible research going, got licensed, opened a practice, and added two little humans to my life. Promotion to associate in year four felt well earned.
 
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Ollie123

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As someone who is a fail(ing/ed) wildly successful academic uncertain whether this was the right career choice for me and considering other options, I'm increasingly of the opinion that academia is either something you succeed in right away or not. So, if you're interested in, go for one cycle on the academic job market, maybe two if you do a postdoc first, and then if you don't get a TT position by then, academia probably isn't for you (which is not to say that you can't be a great psychologist, but you probably won't be a good academic).

There ya go, fixed it for you.
 
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Sanman

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As someone who is a fail(ing/ed) academic, I'm increasingly of the opinion that academia is either something you succeed in right away or not. So, if you're interested in, go for one cycle on the academic job market, maybe two if you do a postdoc first, and then if you don't get a TT position by then, academia probably isn't for you (which is not to say that you can't be a great psychologist, but you probably won't be a good academic).

Dude, if you're failing, who is succeeding?
 
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erg923

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I seem to recall @futureapppsy2 celebrating 100 pubs recently.
Whoops, you are correct. Sorry. I think I recall that was maybe just the grad-school and post-doc pub number?

Did this guy/girl go to University of Pubfactor/WPIC..I mean Pittsburgh? Na. My bad. Anyone who has been their has already told you so....
 
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calimich

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Got any tips or advice for aspiring PhD students?
I agree with what others have offered and trying not to be cliché here...but really, work hard, be kind, get out of your comfort zone. Find mentors. Take breaks. Learn statistics.

What do you do outside of work hours?
Pretty similar to other folks. Exercise, kid stuff, cook, skate, video games, read, local travel, try not to respond to emails.
 
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iliketohelppeople

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I recently finished up with some interviews for PhD programs (I believe I did great and I may be getting offers soon). I had some great conversations with a lot of the faculty and working in academia came up frequently. I was always interested in being a professor but after the interviews, it's all that's been in my head alongside research.

So I wanted to ask, how did you get into your position?

I teach at an undergrad institution. I have taught for 2 years now, after completing a clinically-focused post-doc. This is my first year on the TT (made a move after 1 year of teaching in another city).

Basically, a lot of work, like others have said. I went to a program that mostly produces clinicians (e.g., out of recent cohorts, I think only three of us are doing teaching and/or research as a full-time gig, this is quite a small number of folks). I found a mentor who was really wonderful, but also really productive and latched on to them. I did a lot of work and was dependable and consistent. Eventually, I started to learn unique and useful skills and became a big asset to this person and then had the opportunity to continue learning/hopping on projects. I continued to work with this person, but added on two other collaborators who I did applied work with (think consulting) that also yielded some pubs. For my dissertation, I did something that I knew would be publishable - most folks in my program do not publish their dissertation, but I had it published before my postdoc ended. Meanwhile, my work with my first mentor/collaborator continued and we published the result of our work together (I do community stuff internationally, so things take a very long time). I was much more productive than most of my colleagues at my school (even though I came out with only one pub). I did have my dissertation completed before I went off to internship, and submitted it as a paper shortly after internship began. On internship, I established a relationship with a new collaborator in a related, but distinct, subfield. Got an article submitted during internship. Went to post-doc, and even though it was clinical, it was at a research heavy institution, and I made more research collabs there in a different field (related to my clinical specialty, but with some tie ins to my previous areas). Then got my first teaching job after that which I used as leverage to start on the TT. I also did a ton of teaching and TAing in grad school (whenever I could get the chance; I often TA'd for 2 courses per semester from years 2-4). I guest lectured whenever possible (make sure to get written feedback from the instructor and/or students) and sought out to be instructor of record when I could. I guest lectured on internship and post-doc, too. Finally, my clinical work was always really unique and interesting, and I sought out additional opportunities to distinguish myself.

To sum up, a whole lot of work in different areas. I was very fortunate in terms of my collaborators (all are quite productive, and also wonderful people) and that my research, which I bumbled through at the beginning without a cohesive direction, turned out to be quite cohesive and lead me to some newer areas. I am not hugely productive in terms of absolute numbers of research (I don't have any highly cited studies, fewer pubs, little to no grant money), but, I do a lot of community/applied work which is a lot of fun, challenging, and quite interesting/meaningful.

Key for me was collabs with researchers/folks who I admire. I have a higher teaching load, so I will need to continue this in the future.

What's a day (academic year as well if you're generous) in a life like for you?
My days are really quite my own. I can decide what times I want classes a year or so in advance, so that is nice. I also do a lot of online asynchronous teaching, which can be a pain to do well and set up well, but once it is set up it is a bit nicer. The first few years of prepping classes is quite tough. The last couple of weeks I had a major paper revision (over 30 comments and 25 pages), and major assignments/class preps. It was rough, but it was my own fault.

However, today, I took it a bit lighter on myself and did some fun work stuff and just caught up on life in general. Once I have my classes prepped and going, I can have much less than 40 hour work weeks, and then just do research with the other time I want.

Just getting my lab up and running, so I cannot comment there too much.

Got any tips or advice for aspiring PhD students?
As others said, find mentors who send folks to academic places that you want to go (e.g., R1s, R2s, SLACs). Then learn all you can (stats, etc.). Take as many stats/research classes as you can, and use them to help you work on pubs. In fact, any paper you work on in grad school, try to tailor it to your research and use it to explore something (and then maybe try to publish it if it is good enough).

Find really good collaborators. A litmus test I use for this is that you would have a good time having a meal with them. If you don't want to have a meal with them (or would hate having a meal with them), that is a sign I take pretty seriously. Hasn't led me astray so far, really. Consider your PI, fellow grad students, folks at conferences, etc.

Then, you will have to buckle down and do some work. There is no getting around it. I did all of the above, but generally had good time management - I didn't usually have crazy weeks and still had a ton of fun in grad school (especially internship), but you do have to sit down and do the work. But also, I didn't make life all about work, and try not too. I did traveling, hanging out with friends (I had several friends not in grad school who lived near me who kept me grounded into 'real life' outside of grad school).

I also did 'unique' things - I have a very unique clinical subspecialty that not many others have (I fell into this due to logistical reasons and it turned out perfect), I went to a very unique internship site, etc. I do think this increased interest for some of the schools.

What do you do outside of work hours?

Read, play video games, eat food, exercise, travel, naps. A lot of naps.
 
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Ollie123

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Guess it depends what we mean by success.

Everything you describe sound like incredibly valid reasons someone wouldn't be happy in academia and be looking for an exit. I think about some of those pieces frequently (e.g. lower pay compared to other things I could have done, objective weaknesses that don't mesh well with academia) and haven't faced many of the challenges you have. Whether that constitutes failure I guess depends on how you define it. I'd posit someone being told they should go up for tenure early has very much succeeded in academia, but its also entirely possible they could also find the academic environment insufferable and want to get out - those are separate in my eyes. It sounds like that well may be your case and I'm sorry about that.
 

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Not to get too fair afield from the OP, but succeeding at publishing, being good at the tasks of academia, and even having a positive impact on the field are very different things than succeeding in academia. There's an increasing (mostly informal) literature on the concept of academic exploitation--the idea that academia expects people to give to it freely while not being securely employed/adequately compensated. To be sure, this isn't unique to academia (see the whole "paid in exposure" issue, for one), but it is a problem in it. I'm legitimately glad that the other posters here have had the positive experiences they've had on the job market--and I sincerely mean that, you all are awesome and truly deserve it!--but suffice to say, that wasn't my experience at all. and even having a TT position (that I really like!) now, it's increasingly clear to me that academia will always be an uphill battle for me in a way it's not for my colleagues who got TT positions out of the gate. I don't know whether it's a result of systemic/interpersonal discrimination, some weird power structures in my subarea, objective weaknesses in my own abilities, or some combination thereof, but I can say, knowing what I know now, I sincerely would tell my past self to bail on academia after grad school.

I know we don't want to get too adrift, but I do think that there is an important aspect to this discussion. To me, there are some different issues at play here. One is being successful in academia and your career. The other is whether the sacrifice to be successful is worth the effort. This has been on my mind this week after finding out an old professor I know with 15 years in academia bailed for a VA staff position recently. I think both of those discussions are valid and to some degree being in academia is a sociopolitical game. If you don't receive the correct mentorship early on, there may be nothing one can do to elevate oneself to certain positions, be it academia or otherwise. That may be something that young people have yet to experience as you only speak to the winners and not the losers in this game.
 
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I know we don't want to get too adrift, but I do think that there is an important aspect to this discussion. To me, there are some different issues at play here. One is being successful in academia and your career. The other is whether the sacrifice to be successful is worth the effort. This has been on my mind this week after finding out an old professor I know with 15 years in academia bailed for a VA staff position recently. I think both of those discussions are valid and to some degree being in academia is a sociopolitical game. If you don't receive the correct mentorship early on, there may be nothing one can do to elevate oneself to certain positions, be it academia or otherwise. That may be something that young people have yet to experience as you only speak to the winners and not the losers in this game.

Key point being made right here. Access to good mentorship and data is so critical and arguably the greatest of the systemic barriers to young academics wanting to stay in research.
 
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ThatPsyGuy

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I just wanted to briefly say thanks so much for all the information. It's incredibly valuable and I truly appreciate it.

I didn't see a thread on the topic of Academia/being a professor, and I'm glad that it's bringing discussion on the topic. Especially regarding exploitation or changing career paths out of Academia.

I've got some follow up questions to ask, but probably later when I'm not swamped.
(Which probably won't be too far away because I got accepted into a few programs!)
 

futureapppsy2

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I'm going to dip from this thread, because I just can't do this conversation in my free time. I will say, though, that I'm not a bad academic (basing this on a lot of objective and subjective evidence--awards, glowing tenure evals, teaching evals, metrics, etc), and I think the narrative that academia is a meritocracy is... less true than we would like it to be.
 
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Ollie123

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I think the narrative that academia is a meritocracy is... less true than we would like it to be.

Understand you don't want to continue involvement in this thread but for others....200% agree with this statement.

At best, I'd frame academia as a war of attrition to determine who will continue to work their butt off and put up with the most BS in exchange for the "academic freedom" to pursue ideas that would not necessarily be profitable. As an example of said BS - most of my morning was spent emailing with university PR folks that EEO statements do not belong on research advertisements that have nothing to do with employment as they risk creating extreme confusion (particularly for studies specifically targeting certain populations!) and filling out conflict of interest paperwork because apparently collaborating on research at other universities is now a "conflict of interest" here and requires provost involvement. This kinda crap is - seriously - probably around 50% of my time.

Much like the grant review process, I think academia does an OK job filtering out gross incompetence but a very mediocre job (at best) differentiating anything past that point or filtering in the most qualified people. It is very much a game and the actual merit of the work that you do has little to do with it (and in some ways, can actually work against you). So far, its been worth it to me to continue but I hold no illusions this path is right for everyone.
 
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Sanman

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Just to speak on this a little more. I am not only talking about good mentorship and data. Connections matter and who is willing to make a phone call on your behalf, how well who know/are liked by certain journal editors, the tenure committee, etc can affect chances you are given and how hard you have to work in an academic career. This, of course, translates to other areas of work as well. Not just anyone gets hired into high end cash private practices, has connections to get legal work, etc. Much as @Ollie123 suggested, most folks are able to weed out gross incompetence. However, the process of choosing between qualified candidates is hardly based on merit. Hell, I just got a friend/colleague a spot on one of my committees last week.
 
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I guess what I mean is that just the # of pubs, IME, is one of the greatest factor that weeds out the so-called successful from the so-called unsuccessful regardless of the intellectual contributions those pubs make. The subfield I studied in graduate school is riddled with studies that I would consider fairly weak evidence (e.g., Lots of MTurk data, mediation with cross-sectional data, item parceling to hide measurement misspecification) for the thing we're talking about with plentiful calls to action to do better that are largely ignored. Students who participated in this system were awarded with TT positions and various accolades while efforts to do more stringent work were tacitly punished via denial of opportunities due to a "lack of productivity" etc. I've had great mentors as well, but I'd rather be a clinician or work in industry than publish junk science.

Edit: I think largely this occurred because this area isn't as well funded as other areas in psych. Hence, my earlier comment. If you have a good mentor in a well-funded area, it's much easier to succeed than if you have a good mentor in a poorly funded area with limited access to data or a poor mentor in general.
 
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Ollie123

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I guess what I mean is that just the # of pubs, IME, is one of the greatest factor that weeds out the so-called successful from the so-called unsuccessful regardless of the intellectual contributions those pubs make. The subfield I studied in graduate school is riddled with studies that I would consider fairly weak evidence (e.g., Lots of MTurk data, mediation with cross-sectional data, item parceling to hide measurement misspecification) for the thing we're talking about with plentiful calls to action to do better that are largely ignored. Students who participated in this system were awarded with TT positions and various accolades while efforts to do more stringent work were tacitly punished via denial of opportunities due to a "lack of productivity" etc. I've had great mentors as well, but I'd rather be a clinician or work in industry than publish junk science.
Absolutely. I would wager at least 80% of the scientific literature is junk science that was not worth doing in the first place but was done to prop up someone's career in varying ways . We're dealing with a very real signal/noise problem right now and I think our focus on things like data integrity, replication crisis, etc. are largely missing the forest for the trees.

Anyways, this has really gone a dark and depressing direction. To be transparent - I'm currently a faculty member with no immediate plans to do something else. It is a very research-heavy position so I'm obviously not anti-research. I feel like I've been able to strike a reasonable balance for myself between "CV padding" and work I do that (I feel) really means something. I think there is hope for the field and ways to strike a balance between playing the game and still building a career (and a life) that you enjoy, which is why I've stuck it out. At the same time, I do feel like we shelter trainees from this too much (perhaps part of what futureapp was referencing about the guise that academia is a "meritocracy") and am trying to be transparent here.
 
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Anyways, this has really gone a dark and depressing direction. To be transparent - I'm currently a faculty member with no immediate plans to do something else. It is a very research-heavy position so I'm obviously not anti-research. I feel like I've been able to strike a reasonable balance for myself between "CV padding" and work I do that (I feel) really means something. I think there is hope for the field and ways to strike a balance between playing the game and still building a career (and a life) that you enjoy, which is why I've stuck it out. At the same time, I do feel like we shelter trainees from this too much (perhaps part of what futureapp was referencing about the guise that academia is a "meritocracy") and am trying to be transparent here.

Yeah, I'm a full-time research postdoc at my local AMC because I want to see if I can make an academic career work. If not, I really like clinical work and would be very happy to do it for the remainder of my career. But I studied methods pretty hard in grad school and definitely want to put that knowledge to use. So right now, I'm trying to figure out now what ethical productivity looks like. The best I've come up with so far is measurement papers to validate or raise awareness about the utility of commonly used psychometric instruments. If someone has a better idea, I'm all ears.
 
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foreverbull

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Just to speak on this a little more. I am not only talking about good mentorship and data. Connections matter and who is willing to make a phone call on your behalf, how well who know/are liked by certain journal editors, the tenure committee, etc can affect chances you are given and how hard you have to work in an academic career. This, of course, translates to other areas of work as well. Not just anyone gets hired into high end cash private practices, has connections to get legal work, etc. Much as @Ollie123 suggested, most folks are able to weed out gross incompetence. However, the process of choosing between qualified candidates is hardly based on merit. Hell, I just got a friend/colleague a spot on one of my committees last week.
I’ve sometimes wondered in some jobs and postdocs I’ve interviewed for if the decision was made before my interview, just not “official” because they can’t refuse to interview qualified candidates. Some employers already have a set idea of what they want because of connections, or specialty areas, or they already had an interview with someone they decided they’d go with. Those are factors beyond our control.

This happens more than is acknowledged. I’ve seen firsthand how connections can lead to jobs in our field and the lack thereof can leave qualified folks with fewer options. Not always, but it happens. Some folks in this very forum got offered permanent or temporary jobs just by knowing the “right” people in their grad program or beyond. I’ve personally been offered a few opportunities (some required interviews, some didn’t) just by getting to know folks in my area.

So yes, I agree that the idea that we have a meritocracy is not necessarily accurate in every situation. Doesn’t the research on jobs and networking back this up? I’m not as familiar with this area of research.
 
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ThatPsyGuy

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So what's the primary difference between working at an R1 & R2 and why did you choose your school?

What do you do during the summer semester (more research, travel, vacation, summer classes, etc)?

I've seen a few times in the thread about how some faculty members leave academia for other prospects. Is it because of the pay? (What does the pay look like typically?) Or is it primarily due to other circumstances?
 

Ollie123

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Differences between R1 and R2 is really what you think...varying degrees of research focus. This is a continuum, so there is no "break point" difference. On average, you'll probably have a higher teaching load at an R2 and greater research expectations (particularly RE: grant funding) at an R1. The line is blurry and there is huge overlap (i.e. some R1s will have higher teaching load than some R2s, some R2s have outsized research expectations compared to lower-tier R1s, etc.).

I'm in an R1 AMC (now my second). You'll find that these programs operate differently than psychology departments because they are based around clinical duties too (i.e. hospitals don't shut down for summer). Summer is hotter. That's really about it. Maybe a few more people on vacation, but its not like it would be in a psych department.

I think a lot of people in small colleges leave academia for the pay, which can be pretty awful (I've seen as low as 50-60k - less than we pay post-docs). At R1s and AMCs, this is much less of an issue - I know lots of people who left but I'm not sure I know anyone who left because of the pay. I mean, it is sometimes a perk to leaving, but its usually not the reason. People I know who left largely did so out of frustration with the bureaucratic BS, high expectations and often limited institutional support/constant institutional sabotage. The bureaucracy is pretty unreal and once you start getting grants, you basically stop doing science and just become an administrator. For example, today I'm working on a rebudget for probably the 30th time. Part of the reason I need to rebudget is because my research admin office took 6 months what should have taken a week so all the numbers from the las rebudget are now wrong. My last institution gave my only staff member a 30% raise within a week of me starting but committed no additional funds themselves to cover that difference and she was 100% grant-supported - which basically meant I either couldn't run the study I proposed in the grant since HR was also very clear that you can't "surprise" someone by making a full-time job offer part-time after they accept it even if you can't afford a full-time employee. I need to get an IRB amendment back in to see if they will sign off on advertisements. They threw a hissy fit previously about non-compliance and sent me the "policy" that makes it pretty darn clear I'm following the rules and they just never read the rules themselves. I'm expecting it to get sent back to me again because I'm not following the rules in their head and this may continue indefinitely.

These are minor/trivial examples of the nonsense-bureaucracy you'll experience, but hopefully illustrative! This kinda crap is why people leave;)
 
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erg923

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I think a lot of people in small colleges leave academia for the pay, which can be pretty awful (I've seen as low as 50-60k - less than we pay post-docs).
57K was the starting Assistant Prof salary at the SLAC institution I mentioned in my previous post. Full tenure was like 95-98 or so (which took 10-12 years to get). This was 10 years ago, however. I think starting GS-13 at my local VA back then was like 88k?
 
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Sanman

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57K was the starting Assistant Prof salary at the SLAC institution I mentioned in my post. Full tenure was like 95-98 or so (which took 10-12 years to get). This was 10 years ago, however. I think starting GS-13 at my local VA back then was like 88k?

And the gap has only widened because GS payscale in your region is likely 10% more now and that SLAC salary is probably about the same.
 
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calimich

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Salary is definitely something to consider, and often posted publicly. Here is ours: terminal degrees land in column II, we're able to negotiate the starting step when hired, each year advances one step, we're eligible for promotion the year before the final step, one can choose to stay at Associate 7 forever and never go up for full Professor, sabbatical every 6 years.

This is in a high COL area and I've heard an old benchmark was aligning Associate 1 salary with local homeownership costs, the idea being a newly tenured prof would be able to buy a house and stay put for a while. Unfortunately, growth in home prices has far outpaced any salary gains.

Edited to add: 16-17 salary schedule for reference, the college restructured some of the steps trying to give greater pay increases earlier on in the trajectory. Compared to 16-17, Assistant Profs today earn about 8% more than 16/17, while Associate Profs earn about 4% more.
 

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DynamicDidactic

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People I know who left largely did so out of frustration with the bureaucratic BS, high expectations and often limited institutional support/constant institutional sabotage. The bureaucracy is pretty unreal
From my anecdotal experiences (I am not in an AMC), this is pretty accurate but there is a great deal of variability. I have seen people get sweet startup gigs at AMCs that are starting up more intensive research foci across department and there is a lot of support (funding and staffing). Alternatively, the more established the more BS there is. In some areas, there is a problem just getting/keeping support staff for both the individual faculty and departments. The better your department, the pricier the staff.
 
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I’ve sometimes wondered in some jobs and postdocs I’ve interviewed for if the decision was made before my interview, just not “official” because they can’t refuse to interview qualified candidates. Some employers already have a set idea of what they want because of connections, or specialty areas, or they already had an interview with someone they decided they’d go with. Those are factors beyond our control.

This happens more than is acknowledged. I’ve seen firsthand how connections can lead to jobs in our field and the lack thereof can leave qualified folks with fewer options. Not always, but it happens. Some folks in this very forum got offered permanent or temporary jobs just by knowing the “right” people in their grad program or beyond. I’ve personally been offered a few opportunities (some required interviews, some didn’t) just by getting to know folks in my area.

So yes, I agree that the idea that we have a meritocracy is not necessarily accurate in every situation. Doesn’t the research on jobs and networking back this up? I’m not as familiar with this area of research.
this.
 
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In short, my path was work hard to get out of grad school with minimal debt and time, grind out some research and teach some classes, took a graduate class on teaching undergrad large classes) to keep my options open kinda develop a niche area of interest, and be fine with whatever shook out in the end because job market is too much stress otherwise. Ended up applying to both clinical and research postdoc at same place with genuine interest in both and in the end I was a good overall fit and they made a position that was 50/50 (or 60/60...) and applied for a clinical faculty position, fixed term, non tenure because I don't want that stress in my life. I will echo what others have said before that yeah, merit matters (i.e., don't be terrible, seek and take feedback well and put it to good use to show continued growth and investment in learning to always aim at getting better at wahtever it is you do)... but connections do also matter. As in other areas in life, you can get pretty far on being personable and a decent, interesting conversationalist about topics related to the position. Skills you can (to an extent) teach, areas of not-so-strong abilities maybe can be accommodated somehow, but no one wants to work with an dingus. Make connections, be curious at conferences and ask people questions, maintain old connections. The world gets smaller and smaller professionally the further you go. Can't speak to research or tenure track type positions because i opted out early but it is true it is easier to start there and move to clinical than the other way around. Day to day now is about 50% clinical work (evals, therapy, reports), 30% meetings and admin, 20% supervision / students. ~55 hours/week. I never feel caught up, really, but I like the variety, security and benefits, and I hardly ever work on the weekend or evenings (other than one night a week I'll usually stay super late to focus big chunks of time on preferred projects or report writing).
 
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Justanothergrad

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There are a few choices prospective faculty have to make as they consider academy. The first is the size of the pond you want to swim in. The size of the pond is directly proportional to the amount you need to eat to keep from being eaten. Some ponds have sharks. Others don't. The second choice is if you define the pond by the university you can achieve tenure in based on reputation, or the broader success/attainment, or by life. I picked a low COL area with a high need for outside service to make side cash on to reduce expenses. Salary ranges were above average and I've worked to keep mine high, both through base salary and outside consulting/work. Outside of work its going sports games, travel, board games, beer brewing, and lecturing Gonzaga fans about how their team STILL won't win this year.

I research a well known and widely used/accessed area. The group of researchers is fairly small (depending how you define it, frankly), but all are well established/known and very successful. I've been able to establish myself as a content expert fairly quickly. I also have a great time doing what I do. I dont work at an Ivy League or AAU and don't want to; I wouldn't want to be in an AMC either, for the same reasons/pressures. The ROI isn't there relative to the workload and demands. Defining success is important. I find that most people who are frustrated with academia didn't think carefully about what success (on a holistic measurement) was or their probability of attaining their definition of it prior to going after that goal.

A day in my life,
7:30ish to 8:30ish, coffee and e-mail over some music, sit with the dog outside - I'm a morning person
8:30-11, open time for writing and drop in meetings with students/collaborators/friends.
11 to 2 or so, either teaching or more writing
2-5 faculty meetings, lab meetings, society meetings, reviewing student papers/grading.
5 to 5:15ish if my students have a quick question after the day / need to touch base about anything, it usually happens here

Tips
1. Be thoughtful and intentional. Study the process of things, not the outcomes. I don't care what you study. If you study an outcome. the outcome will change. Understand WHY you are studying it and you will forever be flexible.
2. Avoid special populations for milestone projects. Avoid longitudinal projects for the same reason. Milestones are simple. Other projects don't have to be.
3. Develop the ability to produce quick projects, and also ones which require years to get going. The later are not those which you should prioritize leading in grad school, or until midway through assistant rank.
4. Work with people you like, doing what you like. Don't waste time with people who aren't fun/good to be around. Life matters.
5. Read the feedback folks give you, especially on how to write more clearly. If you learn anything, learn to write concisely. No sentence should be over two lines. No word needs to be over 8-10 letters/6th grade reading level, etc. Those efforts simply add burden to reading and increase the potential for reviewer misunderstanding.
6. See what people are doing that are in the role you want. Start to mimic them (CV, actions [past and present], study design, etc). This is the best route to being able to achieve a similar role. If you can't find someone who does what you like, expect there is a reason. People are often lazy and not planful and attentive- be both planful and attentive.
6. Lastly, don't listen to other peoples' advice. no one has any idea what will work for you.

Others will disagree.
 
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