Postdoctoral Goals

Introduction

As you're considering the graduate schools and programs you'd like to attend, also consider what your long-term goals are. Where do you want to be 5 years out of graduate school--in an academic setting, an institutional setting, a business setting? Do you want to be working for an organization or company or do you want to be self-employed? Some distinctions to consider when you're comparing options include the following.

Academia

There are differences among the types of teaching/research positions available in academia. Generally, two-year colleges (community, city, and junior colleges) have very heavy teaching courseloads and do not encourage research.

Four-year colleges vary in their balance of teaching and research. Good to excellent colleges will expect professors to be professionally active, often with an on-going research program. Some colleges only emphasize teaching. In general, teaching loads are moderate to heavy.

State universities (like Cal State, Northridge) have varying expectations regarding level of research, although most expect professors to have an active, on-going program. Some institutions also emphasize good quality teaching. Depending on the institution, trying to balance research and teaching can be quite difficult.

Research universities (e.g., UCSB, USC, Stanford, UC-Irvine) have a heavy emphasis on successful publishing and grantsmanship. Often courseload reductions are related to extra- and intramural grants which pay for a professor's course to be taught.

If research is your primary interest, then a research university or state university is the place to be. In order to be competitive for positions in these settings, you should expect to complete a postdoc--a 1 to 3 year paid position in which you spend all of your time doing research and (hopefully) publishing.

If teaching is your primary interest, then you must decide at what kind of teaching institution you prefer to work and focus on developing your teaching, and possibly research, skills.

Industry/Social Service Agencies/Organizations

In these settings, you may do applied research for the company or organization that employs you. You may also work as a clinical or counseling psychologist in these settings, doing therapy for clients who are served by the organization or agency or for employees of the company. Another option is to serve as an independent consultant to help answer questions that a particular company, organization, or agency has about its organizational structure, the requirements of various positions, what services or benefits it should provide to clients or employees, etc.