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Academic Tech/Library Careers for Ph.D.'s
January 13, 2010 - 8:39pm

The tenure track job market is in the toilet. Have you considered pursuing an academic technology or library career instead?

Have you thought about applying to a Master's of Library and Information Science (MLIS) program? How about a Master's in Instructional Technology and Learning Services?

I'm sure you've thought about this option (have you?). Or maybe been given advice that learning technology and academic librarian jobs are wonderful routes to have an academic career.

If you ever check in with this blog you probably get the sense that I believe that working at the intersection of learning and technology is the best gig going in academia. I love my job, and would be happy to go on-and-on about why I feel so fortunate to have made the transition from an academic discipline (social sciences) and a faculty career to one in academic technology. (Send me an e-mail if you want to chat).

Same goes for my terminally credentialed academic librarian colleagues. They seem to relish their work, and from what I can see having a Ph.D. is wonderful preparation for a life as an academic librarian.

I want to be very clear that I do not think you should think about transitioning to academic technology or library careers as a "fall-back." Rather, it may be that you are someone whose true passions and temperament would have you better suited for a career in the library or technology. I'd be curious what our community believes would constitute the right set of skills and temperament to match-up as an academic librarian or technologist? Perhaps the academic librarians could offer some opinions.

On the academic technology side, I'd say you are good fit if:

1. You are fascinated by the learning and teaching process.

2. Innovation in teaching and learning is a major intrinsic motivator.

3. The intersection of education and technology is where your curiosity and passion lies.

4. You enjoy collaborating with a range of professionals, including faculty, librarians, media experts.

5. You are restless with the status quo, and see technology as a lever to support fundamental change.

Well … that is my list. I'm sure others would add (or take-away) many of the points.

What would the academic librarian list look like?

One thing that we don't know is how many Ph.D.'s are working in academic computing and academic libraries. This lack of data drives me crazy. (I'm hoping that someone actually knows where these numbers exist and can point us to them!) We also don't know who these Ph.D.'s working in the library and technology are. Basic things like disciplines they received their degrees, gender, age, and what sort of positions they are working in. It would be great to understand how the levels and trends of Ph.D.'s working in the library and technology have changed over time.

Are you someone who has made the transition from a faculty life to one in the library or computing? Can you identify the right mix of skills and passions that would make someone a good candidate for this shift? How can a newly minted Ph.D. get information to understand if a library or computing career might be a good option?


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