Teaching faculty job search

A five year, non-traditional path into academia.

I will be receiving an MS in Computer Science from UC Berkeley in May 2019 and teaching in the Paul G. Allen School of Computer Science & Engineering at the University of Washington in Fall 2019. Some of my friends and students were curious as to how I got here, so I wanted to talk a bit about the process and share my application and interview materials. These materials are all dated 2018.

For students who are interested in following this path, I didn’t start seriously looking into teaching-track faculty jobs until my fourth year of undergraduate study around the same time I applied to the 5th Year MS program. But there is huge demand for CS teachers at all levels. CS departments at the university level are also increasingly open to hiring experienced teachers with master’s degrees, though going directly from completing a master’s degree into a teaching faculty position is rare. But I’m certainly not the first to go down this track: a few colleagues include Adam Blank, Hunter Schafer, Allison Obourn, Zorah Fung, among many others. The UW undergraduate TA program in particular has been a trailblazer in this regard.

I am very lucky to have had the opportunity to lecture for CS courses twice during my undergraduate career, though I believe you can do just as much (if not more) great work as a TA. What is important is that your application materials make clear your teaching experience and views. (And don’t just say nice things about teaching—it’s about what you can bring to the hiring institution, and what differentiates you from other candidates.)

My feeling is that strong recommendation letters and a proven teaching record are the most important attributes for getting your foot in the door. A strong set of application materials sets up a first impression about your teaching values (and whether those values align with the hiring institution). When I was preparing my materials, I chose to emphasize strategies for teaching at scale since it was the thread that tied together all of my work and matched with the institutions that truly interested me. There were some institutions where this wasn’t such a good fit, and it didn’t take too long for them and for me to figure this out.

The teaching job talk is one of the most important events during the interview. Unlike tenure-track positions which tend to follow a more standardized research talk format, many schools put their own twist on the teaching job talk so I mixed and matched presentations to prepare a customized talk for each institution, reusing materials where possible.

For finding job listings, the CRA Job Announcements page is by far the most complete for candidates looking to teach at R1 universities. Based on my informal records, there were well over 60 open listings for full-time, long-term teaching faculty positions starting in the 2019-2020 academic year, and about two-thirds of them required a master’s as the minimum degree. The SIGCSE-jobs mailing list is also useful for last-minute and special opportunities, but the majority of listings were posted to the CRA ads list first.

For detailed views on the tenure-track faculty job search, plenty of other folks have written about their experiences. I consulted Philip Guo and Matt Welsh. These were helpful to get insight into the application and interview process. If you have any teaching faculty in your department, I would also suggest connecting with them.

I found the entire job search process incredibly enjoyable and a rare opportunity to broaden my perspective through meeting over a hundred academics in the span of a few months. I couldn’t have asked for any better way to cap off my five year experience at UC Berkeley, and I am grateful to the faculty, staff, and students in the EECS Department for their perpetual support.