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Finding a College Teaching Job 101

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"What do you want to do when you grow up?" is a question commonly asked of children or young teens. But it also comes up for college students and adults, although it's expressed differently. The job market varies from good news to bad news, sometimes without much notice, and competition for one's desired job can be very tough indeed. Careful planning is important; by the time you are in college you need to get serious about your future.

Having taught brass at two state universities, I naturally spent time around a lot of music majors. Many of them were music education majors, hoping to prepare for a college teaching position. Some others wanted a performing job but still wished to prepare for an education job if a playing position does not materialize.

I can't think of any advice for these prospective teachers that will guarantee that they land a good job. However, there are things they can do to increase their chances of success.

One great way to make sure you are preparing for the real market is to look at current vacancies. Things can change over time, but analyzing your suitability for current vacancies will give you a good idea of the work ahead of you. How well do you fit the requirements listed in the ad? If you think you fit well for four out of eight desired skills mentioned, what are your chances of getting that job instead of someone who matches six, seven, or eight of the skills? Obtaining those may mean stepping outside the boundaries of courses offered by your school. You may need to volunteer or find creative ways to develop skills and get experience in certain things.

But go beyond that and read between the lines of the ad copy. Some other attributes may be implied. Look for "soft" words that don't state hard requirements but imply what type of person they want to find or what circumstances are associated with the job. Consider the institution's needs. Are your skills and experience flexible or deep enough to allow you to be used in somewhat different areas if the situation changes for the institution? Would it seem to the institution as though you will grow with the position?

Since I assume you are already spending an obscene amount of money for your education, I'll mention a FREE resource that may be very useful to you. It is a website (and periodic email) that specializes in academic positions. They have a division devoted to fine arts positions in higher education. Here is the fine arts home page:

And here is link to sign up for their free email announcement of vacancies:

So do your homework! I especially encourage you to look at your qualifications as though you were the head of a department and had no idea what a wonderful person you are. Being objective is hard, so don't be shy about discussing some of this with friends and associates. Good luck!

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