How to Become a Gender Studies Professor
A gender studies professor conducts research and teaches at the college level about gender and feminism in society. This is a highly interdisciplinary field, meaning it draws from many other field of study such as history, political science, sociology, English, philosophy and others.Like any academic field, becoming a professor of gender studies requires years of hard work and education. If you have an inquisitive mind and are passionate about issues of gender identity and equality, this might be the career for you.
Applying for an Advanced Degree
Learn about the field of gender studies.Before you take your first steps down the long road to a professorial job in gender studies, you should spend some time getting yourself well acquainted with what the gender studies discipline is about. Read work by prominent scholars in the field to learn more about it.
- Gender studies explores gender as a concept rooted in our culture and society. It raises questions about gender, how they got the way they are, and how they impact us as individuals and a society.
- Spending some time immersing yourself in this field of study will give you a better sense of whether this field is really for you. It will also help make you more knowledgeable about research in this discipline, which will be very helpful when filling out applications for graduate programs.
- This is especially important if your undergraduate degree was not in a field related to gender studies. If you do not yet have an undergraduate degree, getting one in this area will set you on the right path.
Research graduate programs.Like any other field of academic study, becoming a professor of gender studies requires an advanced degree. Most major universities will require you to have a PhD, though some smaller schools may allow you to teach with a master's. Look into different schools that offer a PhD in related field.
- Note that some schools will hire professors with other, related degrees, and some will not. You may also be able to secure a position as a gender studies professor with a degree in sociology, political science, history, or English literature, if your studies focus on gender issues.
- There are thought to be about 20 schools that offer a PhD in gender studies.
- When researching schools, look at who the faculty that teach there are. Your first priority should be selecting a program where you will have the opportunity to work with prominent gender studies scholars who's work you find interesting. This will help you secure a job after graduation.
- Look into other resources provided by the school. Do they offer fellowships, grants, or assistantships that can help you pay your way?
- If possible, visit schools that you are seriously considering applying to to meet the students and faculty.
Apply for programs.Once you have researched gender studies programs around the country (or even the world), choose some to apply to. As a rule of thumb, you should probably apply to about five programs.
- Choose one dream school, the one you would most like to attend but is very difficult to get in to. Choose two schools that look good, and you think you have a decent chance of being accepted at. Choose two "safety" schools that might not be your favorites, but you you are fairly sure you can get in to.
- Your application materials will typically include a cover letter and/or personal statement, academic records from your undergraduate degree, and a writing sample. Spend some time crafting these materials, and read up online or in a guidebook about how to write an effective application.
- Your academic performance and participation in school-related activities as an undergraduate can play an important role in whether you will be accepted, especially if your bachelor's degree was in a related field.
Accept an offer.Hopefully you will receive one or more offers to join a graduate program in gender studies. Consider your offers and decide which one is best for you.
- Typically your offer will include not only your acceptance to the program, but also any funding package the school is willing to offer you at the time. In this case, you'll typically need to respond by April 15.
- Keep in mind that the best offer may be somewhere far from where you currently live. You will probably have to consider moving, perhaps far across the country, to pursue a degree.
Getting a Graduate Degree
Take courses.As with any other graduate program, the first part of your gender studies program will involve taking courses in (or related to) the field. You will typically have an advisor who can help you choose the best courses for you based on where you are at in the program and what topics interest you most.
- Your coursework is an opportunity to both learn more about the field and develop relationships with the faculty.
- When it comes time to choose your advisor, choose carefully. You will work with this person closely throughout your graduate school experience, so it's important that you work together well.
Learn to do original research.As you complete your coursework, you will begin to develop the skills for producing your own gender studies research. Take courses in research methods, and try to start developing your own studies as soon as possible.
- Your term papers in your courses can often become the start of a submission to an academic conference or journal. Conference presentations and publications are important for securing a job in the field after you graduate.
Develop your teaching skills.Hopefully, your gender studies program will give you an opportunity to start developing your teaching skills, either as a teaching assistant or as an instructor of a stand-alone course, or through pedagogy courses designed to teach you how to teach.
- Teaching experience is important for securing a job in the field. Like research, it will be a major part of what you do once you become a professor.
- Many programs will have optional seminars or presentations you can attend to develop your teachings skills and style. Take advantage of these opportunities whenever possible.
- Many college professors do not have a solid background in teaching.Because gender studies classes are often particularly oriented toward discussion and conversation, developing good classroom skills is imperative for your future success.
Pass comprehensive exams.Most graduate programs require you to pass comprehensive examinations after you have completed your coursework. These exams involve months of study in advance, followed by an intensive period of writing.
- This process usually involves developing a long list readings, in conjunction with a committee of professors, which will be divided up into several topic areas.At the end of the reading period, you'll have a few hours or days to produce essays on questions related to those topics. Depending on the program you attend, you might or might not know in advance what the questions will be.
Write a thesis and/or dissertation.A gender studies program will require you to write either a thesis or dissertation, or in some cases, both--a master's thesis, and then later a doctoral dissertation. This is essentially a long paper based on an original research project.
- The process of writing a thesis or dissertation is a collaborative one--you'll work with committee of professors to develop your research and writing.
- Writing a dissertation can take months or even years.
- Your dissertation will typically be the most important way that schools will evaluate you and your academic identity when you are applying for jobs. Start thinking about this, and having conversations with your advisor about your ideas, as early in the program as you can.
Defend your thesis/dissertation.The last hurdle in most programs will be an oral defense of your dissertation. The process varies from one school to the next. You may be asked to give a presentation about your dissertation. Then, you will be questioned by the professors on your dissertation committee.
- This defense is essentially your "final exam."Once you pass it, you are a doctor of gender studies!
Getting a Job as a Gender Studies Professor
Develop your application materials.Before you actually graduate, you'll want to start looking for jobs. An important first step is to develop drafts of all your application materials, which you'll want to customize based on the specifics of each job you apply for.These materials can include any of the following:
- A cover letter
- Curriculum vitae (CV), which is basically a long academic resume
- A statement of teach philosophy
- A teaching portfolio featuring materials you've used in classes and sometimes student evaluations
- A statement describing your research agenda and future research plans
- Writing samples, such as your dissertation and conference papers or articles you've published
- Letters of recommendation from faculty in your graduate program
Research jobs.Just as when you were applying for graduate school, you'll now need to start researching schools you might want to work at. The approach here is somewhat different, however.
- Instead of picking a few schools to apply to, you'll typically want to apply for just about every tenure-track position you can find in your field, so look for positions often and in many places.
- There are many places to look for jobs in your field, such as the websites of professional associations you may have joined, such as the National Women's Studies Association,or other websites dedicated entirely to higher education job postings.
Apply and interview for jobs.View job postings carefully and be sure your materials cover everything requested in the posting. If your application catches the search committee's attention, you might be fortunate enough to get an interview.
- Very few programs are likely to interview you. The job market for academics is highly competitive, so apply everywhere you can.
- If you do get an interview, you will usually be expected to give a talk about your research, usually based on your dissertation.Start thinking about your job talk as soon as you start applying for jobs.
Accept an offer.If all goes well, at the end of this process you should have one or more offers from a gender studies program that wants to hire you as a professor. You will now get a chance to negotiate the terms of the offer and then (usually) move to another city for a new life as a professor.
- Once you have been made an offer, you are in a position of some power. Don't go overboard or be arrogant, but you can usually ask for more than what was offered, in terms of pay, funds for relocation, or other resources related to your job.
Start teaching classes in the fall.Do good work, teach your students well, and be proud of your accomplishment. You deserve it.
- Be active in your graduate program. Take part in committees and engage in service to your department as often as you can. This will make you a more appealing candidate when you apply for jobs.
- Keep your CV up to date. Once you have a CV, update it regularly throughout your graduate program. This will make applying for jobs faster and easier.
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