How to Search for an Alternative Academic Job

If you’ve decided to search for jobs beyond faculty positions (which include a wide array of careers, including those in a college or university setting), you might be wondering where to find those academic-friendly positions. Where can you find organizations that would value your academic training, and maybe even positions that prefer candidates with a PhD? Below are are some tips for getting your search started.

Higher-ed job boards are a great place to start.

These boards are a key source for administrative job postings in higher ed. This can include positions at research centers, and in student and academic affairs.

Examples include:

Find and search popular general job boards, too!

General job boards regularly feature postings for roles looking for academic research and analysis skills, and postings for alt-ac roles that prefer or require applicants with an MA or PhD. We’ll talk about how to filter for those positions next. Some popular general job boards include:

How to search: Using specific terms and filters

Consider your needs and start with those. Do you need to stay in a certain region? Are you only looking for full-time positions? Do you have a minimum income range? Use advanced search to filter out jobs that don’t fit those needs. Then, test keywords to see what combinations result in positions relevant to/of interest to you.

  • Try search terms associated with your subject-area expertise: international development, women’s health policy, peace and conflict, political behavior etc.
  • Try search terms associated with your skills: “qualitative research,” “STATA,” “content analysis,” “public opinion polling”
  • Try broad search terms like: “social science”

You can also look at examples of alt-ac jobs political science PhDs have had, and our career profiles interview series for more ideas. Find both on APSA’s applied careers resource page.

And above all, familiarize yourself with Boolean search. That will allow you to search “social science” and return only results that reference the term “social science” and not any reference to “social” and/or “science” in a job post.

Refine your search terms

As you become more familiar with the job market and get a sense of the roles you’re most interested in, you’ll learn how you can refine your search terms. Note the terms and skills included in ads for positions that interest you and think about incorporating those into your standard searches. Occasionally review new postings without filters to see if your search is excluding roles you would be interested in. If so, think about how you could update your search to capture those postings.

Identify and improve your search habits

Review your preferred job boards regularly and sort jobs by most recent. An effective set of search terms and filters can help narrow the number of results down, making it easier to keep up to date and avoid missing postings. This also makes it more likely that you will be an early applicant to a position.

If there are one or two organizations that you are particularly interested in working for, consider checking their job boards independently on a regular basis. And keep an eye out to see if their postings appear on the job boards and with the search terms you’re using.

This can feel like a lot of work, but the above tools should make your search easier and more efficient. You can also save time by saving searches or setting job alerts for certain search terms. Some sites will also send you regular e-mail digests of new posts matching different search requirements.

Learn more: