Applying for academic jobs after mathematics graduate school
This page is about applying to research postdocs or liberal arts positions in the year in which you get your PhD. Of course, industry positions is another important matter not touched upon here, and only lightly discussed in the section below!
A point of clarification is that "liberal arts positions" could refer to either tenure-track or non-tenure-track positions at a liberal arts college. In math, you are not not typically qualified for a tenure-track job at a research university directly after your PhD, without doing a research postdoc first. By contrast, in some other disciplines you can go straight from a PhD to a tenure track at a research university.
This zip file contains sample applications from the year I applied, 2012-2013. I applied to about 70 research postdocs and liberal arts positions, which was great fun :). You need to present yourself differently for those two different camps, research postdocs vs liberal arts positions.
Your letters of recommendation, of which you will want four, are very important! Many positions will ask for three letters, which can all be from researchers, and in which at least one letter comments on teaching. Some positions will require four letters, in which one should be focused on teaching. Set these letters up early, both in terms of planning ahead which faculty you will get to know, and in terms of when you ask these faculty to write letters. Ask one or two of these letter writers to observe your teaching, and ask them to comment on your teaching in their letter.
Be sure to have an academic webpage up before applying to jobs, and be sure your academic webpage is linked from your department's list of graduate students!
You can search for a wide variety of math academic jobs on MathJobs.Org. You should also subscribe to the relevant mailing lists announcing jobs with a particular focus in your area. Mailing lists with job announcements in applied topology include WinCompTop and ALGTOP-L, and you should also look for job postings at the AATRN forum and appliedtopology.org.
If you get offered an interview for a position, then here are my tips!
- I'd make a relatively long list of questions you could ask, even if you don't end up asking all of them. Asking questions shows interest, and that you actually understand what the position would entail. These questions can range from being about the research and teaching responsibilities, about technical details in the research area (in part demonstrating your competency), about the teaching environment, and about the location to which you'd be moving. You always want to have at least "one more question", in the sense that for any integer n, even if you have asked n good questions during the course of the interview, at the end of the interview they will still say "Do you have any more questions?".
- I'd create a short list of particular experiences or interests that you want to make sure to bring up (in a non-obnoxious way) at some point during the interview, even if the questions they ask are only partially instead of directly related to that experience or interest! This could include things like a hot topic you've recently started researching, the fact that you have a particular coding skill, or a teaching technique that you've experimented with.
- I'd spend some time looking at the webpage for the department you'd be joining. Also look at your interviewer's webpages to see what they've been up to lately, and in the past.
- If the interview is conversational, with back and forth, then that is ideal. Sometimes interviewers are instead bound to ask the exact same questions to every interviewee, in order to be 100% fair. If you get the sense that the latter is the case, then I'd recommend giving more complete answers to each question, as the interviewers perhaps "aren't allowed" to ask too many (or even any) follow-up questions.
Applying for non-academic jobs after mathematics graduate school
After receiving their PhD, many mathematicians go into non-academic jobs. These include positions in corporations, finance, tech, national laboratories, government, defense, and the NSA (the largest employer of mathematicians). [I am certainly missing more here --- help me out!] Though many graduate students go into these areas, the majority of math professors are perhaps poorly equipped to advise their students in these areas. At CSU we are lucky in that several faculty either have years of hands-on experience outside of academia, or alternatively have trained themselves to advise students towards non-academic jobs; please talk to me and I can refer you to some such people.
You may also be interested in the book BIG Jobs Guide: Business, Industry, and Government Careers for Mathematical Scientists, Statisticians, and Operations Researchers by Rachel Levy, Richard Laugesen, and Fadil Santosa. Bryan Elder has a copy of this book which he can lend to students. There is an associated BIG math network and website.
CSU uses Handshake handshake to connect students with internship opportunities.
See Correlation One for some resources on applying to jobs in data science.
Professional development sessions
This webpage grew out of a professional development session I gave on applying for academic jobs in Fall 2019. Thanks to Harrison Chapman for also contributing a session on making a personal webpage! The Spring 2020 version of this professional development session was done on zoom; see the YouTube recording below!
Here are the title and abstract for the Spring 2020 session.
Title: Applying for jobs after math graduate school
Abstract: I will give a professional development session on applying for jobs after math graduate school. My session will emphasize how to apply for academic jobs. Many mathematicians instead go into non-academic jobs, including industry, finance, tech, national laboratories, government, defense, and the NSA, and at CSU we are lucky that several faculty either have years of hands-on experience outside of academia, or alternatively are well-trained to advise students towards non-academic jobs.
Regarding applying to academic jobs, I will give my perspectives on writing research statements, teaching statements, cover letters, diversity statements, and on obtaining letters of recommendation. Now is a good time to begin thinking about these materials in order to go on the job market in the Fall. Sample materials from the year 2012-2013 when I got my PhD are available on my webpage: https://www.math.colostate.edu/~adams/advising/academicJobs/. This webpage also includes links to further information on applying to jobs, academic or otherwise; please feel free to suggest more resources for me to link there!
This professional development session was be recorded, so that if you weren't able to attend it live, you can find a recording at this YouTube link!
Photo from the Fall 2019 session: