By Christa Ventresca
As a scientist, you are likely familiar with several types of faculty positions that exist in higher education, such as the coveted tenure-track professorship, but what else is out there? In a new workshop hosted by the NICHD Office of Education on December 10, 2018, Dr. Sydella Blatch, postdoc/visiting fellow program manager at the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID), talked about the different types of higher education institutions and faculty positions available to scientists. One thing to keep in mind is that there are always exceptions to these descriptions, and some institutions and individual positions are unique. But all positions involve some combination of research, teaching, and service (commitment to the institution or the community).
The Carnegie Classification
First, Dr. Blatch introduced the “Carnegie Classification” of institutions. This is a way to classify schools on the basis of research activities and degrees offered. Schools that offer associate’s or bachelor’s degrees with few research programs are classified separately from schools with master’s/doctoral programs and ample research work. Each type of university or college is further sub-divided by amount or type of research/education programs available. For example, doctoral-granting universities are classified as R1 (the highest amount of research), R2 or R3, and masters-granting colleges and universities receive the designation of M1, M2 or M3, depending on the number of degrees awarded. Dr. Blatch cautioned that you shouldn’t rely on the school’s classification to know the extent of ongoing research. Applicants should research each school’s culture and programs to ballpark how much research is expected from faculty.
Types of Faculty Positions
Dr. Blatch next discussed three main types of faculty appointments:
- Teaching only
- Teaching with some research
- Combined research- and teaching-intensive
Teaching faculty have a full teaching load and do not have time for research. Their schedule is described as 5:5, meaning that they teach five classes in the fall and five in the spring. Their tenure is primarily based on teaching quality above anything else. One thing to keep in mind with these positions is that they may be teaching to open admissions, meaning that the students come from a wide variety of backgrounds.
Dr. Blatch next described positions that are mostly teaching with some research, such as teaching at a liberal arts college. Their schedule is described as 4:4, and again teaching quality is what counts here. The purpose of research at these institutions is not to further science but to educate students, which can be an adjustment for some bench scientists. When applying, do not try to impress them with the novelty of your work, but instead highlight how much your students will learn and how good you are at training them quickly.
Positions that are split between intensive research and some teaching can have unpredictable teaching requirements. The teaching load varies, but it could be as high as two to four courses per semester, which is a lot in addition to performing research. It is important to make sure with these positions that the combined research and teaching expectations are realistic.
If you have any questions—as this was a brief overview of the detailed discussions—Dr. Blatch encourages you to email her at email@example.com. She is also interested in leading more teaching-related workshops in the future, so stay tuned for more from Dr. Blatch!