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Certainly at the place I taught last - a four year college - for post docs, we would look to see that they have some real teaching experience (not just small section in a course), and for VAPs we would want to see that they are still publishing as they teach. The only way to get tenure where I was is to really do both - teach and research. So we need evidence you can do both at once. People who have left often look like they really have left ... they won't have teaching experience, and they may not have an impressive research record either.

Bill Vanderburgh

I think there will probably be a different answer from a few heavy-research departments, who might think that a prestigious post-doc is a good thing in its own right that they would count in a candidate's favor in job deliberations. But for most departments, and certainly most of them like my mostly-teaching-focused large state university, the post-doc or the VAP is not itself considered as a credential. Rather, the extra teaching experience and the extra publications acquired during those periods are what give a candidate a competitive advantage.

This means that the only strategy advice one can suggest is that if a candidate already has plenty of teaching experience, doing a teaching-heavy VAP will help a lot less than finding a position that allows them to do a bit more research. If a candidate already has a good research record--as winners of post-docs tend to--they might be better served by getting a position that gives them more teaching experience. In part it depends on which kind of position the person is competitive for.

FWIW, I think most hiring departments make no difference between an official VAP and just getting hired as an adjunct instructor. The work is the same and the experience acquired through it is the same. It could be that some places would think a VAP at a fancy school is *less* valuable, since they might infer that the teaching experience acquired there doesn't apply to students like theirs.

On the question of working outside academia post-PhD, many search committees would have no problem with it in principle (we all know how bad the ac job market is), *except* they would prefer to see someone with on-going teaching experience. It is a lot to ask, but if you can teach at least one course per year while in a non-ac job, it will help your chances on the ac job market in the future. There will probably also be some number of years in a non-ac job that will start to make someone an implausible candidate to come back to academia, but I don't know exactly what that number is (three? five?).


I agree with the comments left above. Here's another wrinkle to consider:

There are different types of Post-Docs. The most prestigious are research-focused and require little to no teaching. Other post-docs are teaching-focused, requiring up to a 4/4 teaching load. These are really VAPs in disguise.

Kate Norlock

I've served on many search committees and I've never heard anyone say one of postdoc/VAP was more valuable than the other. All the search committees care about, ultimately, is fit for the position and evidence that one can do the job excellently, which as folks above said means that it's great if candidates can demonstrate they're good at both teaching and research. Any way of showing that will work.

Derek Bowman

One important thing to think about when evaluating these options is the length or stability of the appointment. A 1-year postdoc or VAP means that as soon as you're done investing time, energy, and money moving and setting in to your new position, it will be time to apply for the next position, and soon you'll be investing more time, energy, and money in moving to the next gig. So a multi-year or renewable NTT position, or one located in a place you already live, may be more important than other details (e.g. post-doc vs VAP) in many cases.

I would also encourage the reader and others in their position to also take some time to think carefully about the relationship between the various ends and means in considering the option of nonacademic employment.

If the ultimate goal is to become a professor, then time spent doing teaching and research are likely to be both better practice and better signaling for that work. (Though even here, I could imagine many departments might value someone who was in a more credible position to explain how their philosophical studies might connect to the world of nonacademic jobs students might be pursuing).

But if becoming a professor is merely a means to the further end of being able to pay your bills and meet your obligations while living a philosophical life or engaging in philosophical activity, then the nonacademic job might be a more viable option. Certainly, I think it will be better than adjuncting - or perhaps a good base from which to do some adjuncting on the side. Whether it is better than a postdoc or VAP will depend on the details of pay, location, working conditions, etc.

For more reflections on this latter point, see the last few questions and answers in my interview here: https://freerangephilosophers.com/2016/09/05/benjamin-jarvis/


As others have said, nobody I have interacted with has ever said a word to indicate they care about perceived "value" of a postdoc, VAP, or non-academic job itself. The things we care about are: quality of research, publication record, teaching record, and evidence of teaching ability. The type of job you take might eventually influence the quality of these factors in your file, but the job itself is irrelevant to me. I don't even control for factors like teaching a high load and still publishing to be relevant; everyone's got hidden limits on their time that prevent them from being maximally productive. I just look at the record itself.

One other secondary factor that this might influence: if the job you take can lead to you getting letters of recommendation from either big names or good letter writers, that might be worth considering. I don't really read letters of recommendation myself, but I'm sure some do.

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