PhD Academic Job Search

Getting started in your academic job search can be challenging. In the past 10-20 years, higher education has become more market-driven and as a result, tenure-track positions are not as abundant as they once were. Additional research beyond your PhD may be required to secure a tenure-track position. However, beginning your search early and preparing your materials can help to guide your strategy and get a step ahead.

To begin your search you will want to make sure that your CV is up to date and polished. In addition to the tips below make sure to check the Engineering Career Resource Center’s Events Calendar for workshops and company events specific to PhD candidates.

Connect with professors, peers, and post-docs in your department. Connect with your academic department to see if they offer notification about job postings and field specific resources for the job search. Attend conferences and mixers oriented toward your intended field and utilize the free time to talk with attendees and make connections.  

A Curriculum Vitae, also called a CV, is a document that gives extensive information on your qualifications and background. A CV is used most often by PhD students who are applying for positions in either academia or research. Not every CV will look the same, you may choose to organize your information differently than a peer or colleague based on your particular background and experiences. A CV is organized like a resume, with section headings and experiences that display your value to a an organization or university/college.

Examples of Headings

EducationUniversity Service
CertificationsHonors, Awards, Fellowships, Funding
ExperienceProfessional Development
Teaching ExperienceProfessional Affiliations, Memberships
Research ExperienceDigital Projects
Publications and PresentationsLeadership
ActivitiesVolunteer Experience


  • Section headings are subjective, feel free to add additional sections that make sense given your experiences and the positions you are applying to.
  • Make sure to tailor your CV to its audience. Which means you may have multiple versions; one that would be appropriate for a Liberal Arts College, one that would be more suited towards a large research university, etc.
  • Be as concise as possible, this means your CV will likely extend beyond two pages.
  • Take advantage of bold type and italics for emphasis and organization.
  • Make sure to have your CV reviewed by multiple sources: your advisor, peers, and the ECRC.

Example of a CV

Job Titles typically held by PhD Candidates after graduation include:

  • Assistant Professor
  • Lecturer
  • Visiting Assistant Professor
  • Post-Doc

  • Complete your profile on Engineering Careers, by Symplicity, and utilize Engineering Careers to schedule career advising appointments at the ECRC.
  • Create a draft of your CV and continue adding to it each year.
    • Have your CV reviewed regularly (at least once per year) by the ECRC’s career advisors.
  • Join professional organizations in your field.
  • Attend conferences and, if possible, give presentations to build a name for yourself in your field.
    • This is also a great way to network with others in your field.
  • Review job postings to learn more about the market and the types of skills and experiences employers seek.
  • Develop your professional online presence.
  • Build transferable skills throughout your PhD program.
    • Mentor an undergraduate research assistant.
    • Audit or take classes in areas outside of your area of research.  
    • Volunteer and/or participate in extracurricular activities.
    • Join student organizations.
  • Learn about the important sources of job listings in your field.  
  • Conduct informational interviews with those currently in the field to learn more about the realities of an academic career and their advice regarding the job search.
  • Identify relevant postdocs that you may be interested in and learn their deadlines.
    • In many disciplines, postdoctoral research is necessary before becoming a competitive applicant for tenure-track positions.  
  • Create a profile on  This website is intended for use by universities who are interested in recruiting UM PhDs and Postdocs to fill their faculty positions.
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  • Attend programs offered by the ECRC, the University Career Center (UCC), Rackham, and the Center for Research on Learning and Teaching (CRLT) to learn more about the job search at the PhD level.
  • Finalize a version (or several versions) of your CV to use in job applications.
  • Collect letters of recommendation.
  • Prepare a teaching philosophy if you are applying to positions that require one.
  • Search and apply to jobs.
    • In general, apply for positions in the fall if hoping to begin new position the following fall.
  • Write cover letters and have at least one cover letter reviewed at the ECRC.
  • Continue applying to jobs.  
  • Prepare for interviews.
    • Do a mock interview at the ECRC and attend interview preparation workshops offered by the ECRC and Rackham
  • Give some thought to your long-range research plans, as you may be asked about it in interviews.
  • Continue applying for jobs.
  • If you receive an offer and are not ready to accept it or would like to negotiate it, make an appointment at the ECRC to get advice on asking for an extension on your decision or initiating a conversation to negotiate the offer.