GSAS Students Face Tough Job Market

GSAS Post-Graduation Plans
Nicole M. Iacopetti

When he graduates from the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences, Guy P. Smoot hopes to become a professor.

A student in the comparative literature department, Smoot said he has found working with students rewarding as a teaching fellow at the College, particularly getting them excited about the material he teaches.

“I like to have an impact on the way people view the world,” Smoot said.

Smoot’s career aspiration is a common one among graduates of GSAS.

According to Garth O. McCavana, GSAS dean for Student Affairs, about 70 percent of the school’s 4,000 students go into academia each year, either by jumping directly into the professorial job market or by pursuing postdoctoral studies.

The goal for many graduate students is to eventually earn tenure, the guarantee of lifelong employment awarded by universities to their most valuable faculty members.

Most students spend anywhere from four to seven years pursuing their doctoral degrees and many wonder whether there are teaching jobs open for them once they graduate.

“The job market is not great at the moment,” McCavana said. “Our students are doing well, but it doesn’t mean everyone is landing their dream job.”

Of the 100 GSAS students interviewed by The Crimson, 48 said they hoped to pursue jobs in academia upon graduation.

For doctoral candidates in the humanities graduating from Harvard, the path to professorship is especially long, rocky, and uncertain—qualities that have only been worsened by the current economic climate.


The path to a tenure-track position is similar across most fields of academia.

A candidate’s published academic writings are key to the application process, as they serves as indicators of how the student will fare as a full-time scholar.

“Your publication record shows that you can finish things and get research done,” assistant professor of chemistry and chemical biology Emily P. Balskus said. “It’s more the quality than the quantity, and [if] you really made a contribution to the research.”

Most departments require their graduate students to serve as teaching fellows even as they work on their dissertations.


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