Alternatives to the Tenure Track

Attaining a position as a tenure-track faculty member may be one goal of attending graduate school, but it is certainly not the only – or even, in many cases, the desired – career path available to you after graduation. There are many options available, from research positions in academia or industry to administrative positions in universities, and it is important to think broadly about the possibilities available to you.

Prompted in large part by the economic crisis of 2008, there has recently been a great deal of discussion in the media about alternative academic careers and careers outside of academia entirely. In fact, there is a movement on the web and on Twitter to promote alternative academic careers (which proponents have labeled #altac due to the prominence of Twitter and hashtags in the discussion of these careers) in order to provide resources and information to those who are interested, as well as to remove the perceived stigma often associated with taking a position off the tenure track.

As a result, many have noted that calling these careers “alternative” seems to imply that they are somehow a lesser option than tenure-track positions, when nothing could be further from the truth. Many graduate students seek to go into industry, government positions, or nonprofit organizations as their first choice because they feel they can have as much, if not more, of an impact in these areas. The key is to find a career that is meaningful and fulfilling to you.

Additional Resources:

#Alt-Academy, a MediaCommons project, edited by Bethany Nowviskie.

The #alt-ac entries on the ProfHacker blog, which is affiliated with The Chronicle of Higher Education.

Leonard Cassuto (2012), “In Search of Hard Data on Nonacademic Careers.”

“Research Centered,” another blog affiliated with The Chronicle of Higher Education.

Roger Whitson (2012), “#Altac and the Tenure Track.”