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Sunday, October 15, 2006

If Not a Professor, Then What?

I've had two people today ask me versions of the same question: what might someone do who has an English Ph.D. but doesn't want to become a professor?

One of these people is currently a professor and the other is currently caught in the adjuncting trap. Neither wants to teach high school.

Does anyone out have any suggestions or advice for my friends? Any friends of your own who have successfully made the transition to a career outside academia? I realize most of the people who read this blog are probably academics themselves, but surely we know people who have chosen alternative career paths.

I've really only known two other people who fell into this category. One worked as a speech writer for a university president for about a year (and is now living in another country with a spouse and their two young children). The other, after striking out on the t-t job market three years in a row (even after landing a book contract), decided to enter a J.D./M.B.A. program and is now a fancy lawyer. And I'm certainly not going to suggest that either of my friends go to law school or business school. In fact, more school is the last thing I think either of them wants.

So, again, any ideas?

  • At 10/16/2006 01:58:00 AM, Blogger Flavia wrote…

    Two likely career paths: scholarly publishing (quite a lot of editors have Ph.D.s in their subject matter, and though one might have to start out at a low level, the movement up would be pretty fast) or an academic nonprofit (MLA, NEA, etc.).

    I have a friend of a friend who also has what you might call a para-academic career--he runs a "center for the study of X" at the university where his partner has a tenure-track position. But perhaps your acquaintances want to get away from the university environment entirely?

    There's also library & info sciences--it would probably mean a year of additional schooling, but sometimes people with PhDs luck into positions, especially ones at universities or research libraries or in curatorial-type positions. I believe there are also a number of fellowships designed to encourage people with PhDs to consider library jobs.

    (Oh, and my partner just contributed this bit of advice: check the federal jobs database. There are a lot of options within government agencies, and a Ph.D. will start you out at a GS-14.)


  • At 10/16/2006 06:33:00 AM, Anonymous Anonymous wrote…

    If general humanities PhDs are of interest even if it's not exactly English:

    In addition to scholarly publishing and LIS: I myself (PhD in philosophy, renaissance focus) have had jobs (which were fun) in the following fields:
    - IT
    - research administration<

    - At least one historian (renaissance focus again) went into "humanities services": oragnizing events and exhibitions, helping to catalogue private libraries, writing of chronicles, research in archives, etc. pp.
    - A friend who is a historian of art (renaissance focus again) administers historical castles.
    - An other philosopher (with some renaissance focus) works for an edition under the roof of an academy.
    - An other philosopher (renaissance focus again) founded a publishing house.
    - A historian of music (renaissance focus) worked in IT and now works for a music publishing house.
    - An other philosopher (renaissance focus again) worked for a church institution as an administrator plus X before returning to acadmia.
    - Several people who did PhDs on renaissance stuff did work as translators for some time.
    - An other philosopher (renaissance focus again) now works for a museum.
    - There is quite a number of PhDs with renaissance focus here who work in various research projects.


  • At 10/16/2006 09:44:00 AM, Blogger Hieronimo wrote…

    A friend who is a historian of art (renaissance focus again) administers historical castles

    I would love to administer a castle! Would I get a bevy of damsels as well?


  • At 10/16/2006 10:33:00 AM, Blogger Adam wrote…

    i have a friend who, armed with a phd in jacobean literature, is now a professional online gambler.


  • At 10/16/2006 01:18:00 PM, Blogger Pamphilia wrote…

    I think it's more difficult to do this, but I do know a lot of rare books librarians who have Ph.Ds. They may or may not have gone to library school and they may or may not actually have an advanced degree in library science. But if you like old books but not teaching, and you want to still be a scholar, this might be for you. Look at Georgiana Ziegler, at the Folger, or Carla Zechler, at the Newberry.


  • At 10/16/2006 01:20:00 PM, Blogger Pamphilia wrote…

    And talk to them too, they are great librarians and lovely people!


  • At 10/16/2006 05:54:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous wrote…

    Consider, gentle scholars, the fine profession of antiquarian bookman.


  • At 10/17/2006 12:21:00 AM, Blogger Hieronimo wrote…

    Professional blogger?

    Honestly, if I had any ideas for great careers outside of academia, would I really be in academia?


  • At 10/17/2006 05:41:00 AM, Anonymous Anonymous wrote…

    At 10/16/2006 09:44:43 AM, Hieronimo wrote…

    A friend who is a historian of art (renaissance focus again) administers historical castles

    I would love to administer a castle! Would I get a bevy of damsels as well?

    Well, I don't know whether they qualify as "a bevy of damsels", but, yes, the person in question (a heterosexual woman BTW) has some female personnel.

    Nevertheless: it's a job that comes with lots of work ... .


    At 10/17/2006 12:21:45 AM, Hieronimo wrote…

    Honestly, if I had any ideas for great careers outside of academia, would I really be in academia?

    Well, I've been "outside of academia" for quite some time (and when once asked during that time "are cou in academia?" I answered honestly: "thanks God: no!") and though I'm back by now I still prefer those of my tasks that are not "doing research and teaching".


  • At 10/17/2006 11:01:00 AM, Anonymous Anonymous wrote…

    Technical writing?


  • At 10/21/2006 12:26:00 PM, Blogger Simplicius wrote…

    Thanks for all the ideas everyone, especially Heinrich, who definitely is running in more interesting circles than most people (or at least than I am). I'll let you know how things continue to develop.

    For what it's worth, I talked to my favorite MLS holder (Master's of Library Science), who told me that while it's possible to get library jobs without an MLS, it's, nowadays, very difficult to do. Especially a job in rare books (a very small job market). But an MLS takes only a year, so it's not some huge hurdle.


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