We're creating a respository of the best alt-ac and post-ac resources! Share your favorite below.
The Ph.D. needs to be reinvigorated in order to maintain relevance in a post-university world. Training to be a professor no longer makes sense: That job has largely disappeared over the past three decades. Thirty years from now, it will be nonexistent.
But the advanced degrees that now prepare graduate students to fill these professorial ranks don’t have to die with the profession. It’s just a matter of shifting the focus of graduate training and job search, of stopping the fight for scraps from the choked tenure system and starting to identify new, alternative careers for Ph.D. holders.
The growing ranks of people attempting to do just that are often labeled as alternative-academic or post-academic, alt-ac or post-ac for short. Members of these two nontraditional groups hold advanced degrees, but they’ve rejected the receding path of academics past. They’ve spotted the downward spiral of the professoriate and opted instead to strike out into the unknown and create for themselves a new life plan—one that allows them to use their knowledge and earn a real living.
Alt-acs and post-acs refuse to accept the demoralizing, underpaid, and underappreciated work of the adjunct professor. The decision to walk away is not easy, but those who choose this path want to take their fate into their own hands and create their own future.
For this reason, choosing the alt-ac or post-ac career path has traditionally required a big leap of faith. But it doesn’t have to stay this way. As the community grows and the resource list expands, alternative academic careers will become more common. Maybe graduate schools will see the writing on the wall and start having these discussions. Or maybe the alt-ac community will begin to support its own members as a training ground for ex-academics.
Whatever happens, I believe these alt-ac and post-ac jobs are crucial to maintaining the viability of the Ph.D. We need to create new reasons to earn the degree—ones that don’t involve eight years of sacrifice and hard work in order to make minimum wage teaching the same freshman courses over and over again.
I happen to have a personal interest in the alt-ac life, though I admit I’m just learning about it myself. When I grasped the reality of the academic labor system, I quickly shifted into a new path that involves teaching only part-time and using my free time to work on other projects.
In this transitional process, I’ve learned about and met many others like me who are creating their own nontraditional paths and finding new ways to apply their graduate degrees. The list of alt-ac and post-ac resources grows every day.
Eventually, I’d like to see the stigma that now surrounds these alternative careers fade away. I hope the alt-ac and post-ac labels are only temporary placeholders for the careers we ultimately create. These alternative jobs have not been entirely realized yet, but there are several people who are working on defining them for future graduates right now.
The next step toward destigmatizing the alt-ac track is to build proactive training and internships into graduate-school curricula, rather than just forcing students to scramble for something else after being stymied three years into their tenure-track job search.
In an effort to encourage that kind of thoughtful discussion (and also because I’m personally interested), I’d like to create a cache of the best alt-ac and post-ac resources. Those of you who are involved with this movement: What are some of your favorite resources, websites, and people? Maybe you have a list of your own?
The spreadsheet below will update as new entries are added. You can contribute to this list by filling out the form or by leaving a comment on this post.