Not all jobs are created equal. Finding the right job involves doing a little research and being honest with yourself. Applying to every job posted is tempting and yes, we have all done it, but being realistic with your goals and expectations can help you get to the right job more quickly. With an earlier post I discussed some ways to evaluate your expectations. Below I would like to generally discuss different types of academic institutions and offer some pros and cons. As you think about these positions, remember that the institution that hires you has a vested interest in your success.
- Research 1 institutions: typically this will be a top tier university that also has a graduate program. These schools will have the greatest amount of money to give to faculty for research projects, and they will expect the greatest amount of research. Look at their faculty list before you jump. Pros: if you are ambitious, able to prioritize your work, good at saying no to things that get in the way, and great at advocating for your work, this could be a great place for you, but it may take several years and less ideal positions to get there. Forging connections, showing regularly (nationally and internationally) and creating ambitious projects that are innovative and grant funded are excellent ways to attain one of these positions. Cons: if you really love teaching, you will not be as rewarded for it as at other types of institutions. You will most likely be paying your dues when you start out, sometimes filling in for absentee art star colleagues proving challenging for your own career. If you don’t handle pressure well, or are less ambitious, you might be unhappy in this position. The university might have a difficult time understanding art research proposals.
- Research 2 or state college systems: Satellite campuses of university systems will still have a good amount of money for research and high expectations. Typically these may be in smaller communities and further away from top art centers. Pros: research money, stable, often easier position to attain than research 1 with less competition, often put a greater emphasis on teaching. Cons: workload may be higher at these institutions, expecting a higher level of service and teaching, pay will typically be lower than tier one.
- Art Schools: there is a great range of art schools (some might be a dedicated college within a university system). They tend to be more multi-disciplinary, although some might be dedicated to one discipline. Pros: these institutions understand art research, generally smaller class size, student demographic will be art focused, high esteem in field. Cons: pay and money for research tends to be less at dedicated art schools. Research the pedagogical focus of the institution you are considering.
- Colleges: Colleges without graduate programs tend to be more oriented towards teaching. They are more likely to reward individuals dedicated to the classroom, but are still looking for faculty with strong research and solid exhibition records. Pros: generally lower expectations and less pressure, greater emphasis on teaching, compensation tends to be lower at entry level, student demographics may be very art dedicated with smaller, closer knit classes. Cons: generally less money for research, art department might have to fight for limited resources in a smaller school, tenure committee may be filled with non-art faculty. Pro or con could be smaller faculty – you are more likely to be the only instructor in your field.
- Community Colleges or Technical schools: Generally community colleges place a greater emphasis on classroom practice than they do research. They might perceive an imbalance if all your research is art practice focused and will expect your sabbatical or research to have a teaching aspect. CCs will vary tremendously from those with fine art programs to those that teach from a technical or vocational perspective. Research course structure (5, 4 or 3 classes a semester?) and pedagogical focus. Student demographic will vary considerably based on the location of the school, as will compensation. There will generally be a heavy emphasis on assessment. Pros: heavy teaching focus, less stress in art practice, offers very good opportunities in major cities. Cons: little or no money for research, but possibly good support for pedagogical research and faculty development.
- Proprietary Educational Institutions: for profit schools have been a growing trend in recent years and have been under intense scrutiny by the government. Programs vary greatly and it is best to research the specific institution of interest. PEIs tend to be organized under a corporate model, so they are looking at numbers/data to justify expenditures. Programs are teaching focused, so faculty will be primarily evaluated on classroom/coursework contributions rather than research. Course load and contact hours may be intense, so teaching may suffer. Compensation tends to be lower vs workload. Many of these institutions are alternatives in major cities — if you need to be where the art is, they can provide a way to stay in touch with the art community of your choice.