UNC PhD Placement Information


I previously served as the Placement Director for the UNC PhD program. Previous placement directors Jim Stimson, Virginia Gray, and Mike MacKuen have put together this list of advice, covering almost everything you could imagine. Some of it is out of date in terms of technology, but it all remains relevant in terms of substance and process. Here are some tips from colleague Tim Ryan, who started his first tenure track job here at UNC in 2014. Here is a great set of tips from former colleague Tom Carsey about how to design a successful job talk (this is a ppt slide show). A 2008 article in PS from Ron Hassner, on how to handle the Q&A section of a job talk.


Probably the single most complete and helpful compilation of advice I have ever seen is by our former faculty colleague Tom Carsey. Tom passed away during the height of his career in 2018, after suffering from ALS. During the time of his illness, he spent much of his time compiling this amazing set of advice, based on what he had done his entire career: Given advice and help those coming along in the profess to make a success of it. Thanks to Tom and his wife Dawn for making this freely available to all. Click here to read Tom’s Comments: Advice about Graduate School, Finding a Job, Reaching Tenure in Political Science and other Social Sciences, and All of the Steps in Between.


Some great advice about your internet presence from 2013 PhD Sarah Shair-Rosenfeld, now at Arizona State: "I have taken to reminding graduate students here at ASU that not only is a website really important, but that the rest of their internet footprint should reflect their professionalism and professional aspirations. This means that even though many hiring committees won't waste the time to check on the content of the social media presence of all candidates, there is always a chance that someone comes across a candidate tweeting inappropriate, extremely personal, or politically sensitive things that could negatively impact a hiring decision, and there is simply no reason to take such a risk. If it's something you wouldn't say in a face-to-face interview with a representative from a hiring committee or Human Resources, it's probably something you shouldn't post online either."


Another point from Sarah about what types of things to use as your writing sample: "I will say that the one other thing I've noticed, sitting on a hiring committee and advising our own graduate students during the job market process last year, is that some students do not seem to realize the importance of sending at least one solid, clean chapter of the dissertation as a writing sample. This is particularly true for ABD students, and it always surprises me when I review a candidate's file or see what our students are preparing to send out when someone who is still a student sends only co-authored pieces and none of the dissertation itself. It doesn't seem like something that should need to be stressed, but I've encountered it enough times now to always remind our students about when they are preparing their packets." Bottom line: employers want to see the dissertation so they can judge the quality and potential of your most important intellectual product from graduate school.


Here is the most a 2014 report from APSA on job placement nationwide.


Many employers will ask for a Diversity Statement. Here is some advice from the UNC Writing Center about what to consider when putting one together.


There are many types of colleges and universities in the country. Here is a web page that indicates their networks of connections, or what each of them consider to be their own peers (courtesy of Chronicle of Higher Education).


Most of our PhD's are interested in positions in the US and all tenure-track jobs in the US have to be advertised through a nationally available service, typically the APSA e-jobs newsletter though sometimes the Chronicle of Higher Education (more likely for administrative and inter-disciplinary positions). (Note that non-tenure track positions, lectureships, term appointments, and post-docs are not subject to the legal requirement that they be nationally advertised, and many of them are not advertised widely.)


Here are some job sites for other countries:

- UK: http://www.jobs.ac.uk
- Netherlands: https://www.academictransfer.com
- Switzerland: http://www.myscience.ch/en/
- Germany/Austria/Switzerland: https://www.academics.com

- Canada: http://www.polcan2.ca/polcan.php 


Note that US academic jobs have a very structured process, typically involving a 2-day campus visit. They differ quite substantially between research-oriented universities and teaching-focused colleges. Overseas, the variation in hiring / interviewing processes is extremely great. Many UK jobs, for example, involve simultaneous campus visits by 3 candidates with 30 minute presentations to a committee, one after another, with an immediate decision. Make sure you understand the process and are prepared to answer the questions that a committee may have. If the job is overseas, be sure you talk at length with the committee chair about what will be expected of you during the campus interview, and, whatever you do, do not assume that things taken for granted in a US interview will apply.


Increasingly, those with good statistical and technical training are finding good job opportunities in the business world, not only in politics, as various entities explore "big data" and recruit people with strong data skills. Here are two fellowship programs designed to help build the skills that employers are looking for in this area (thanks to Serge Severenchuk for these tips): https://www.insightdatascience.com, https://www.thedataincubator.com. Many of the skills used here can be useful as methods training as well, so even if you are a younger student and not on the job market, such programs can be helpful.


The APSA web page hosts a variety of pages relevant to non-academic careers (sometimes called Alt-Academic jobs), featuring profiles and short blog posts by younger and mid-career political scientists who provide their feedback and experiences about working in government, the private sector, and elsewhere.


UNC graduate Kelsey Shoub ('18, now Assistant Professor at University of Massachussets, Amerst) has a number of resources as well as personal reflections and bits of advice for those going on the job market at her web page.



In December 2022 PS published this interesting article about faculty start-up packages, things like moving expenses, summer salary, research support, and other transitional benefits that may be negotiable when one starts a tenure-track job.


In Summer 2016, APSA published a symposium on non-academic careers for political scientists. Below are the links to this very useful series of articles. While most of political science PhD's go on to academic work, many do not, and they follow a wide range of extremely interesting career paths. See the links below for more information:

Profession Symposium: Beyond the Ivory Tower: Political Science Careers Outside Academia PS: Political Science & Politics / Volume 49 / Issue 03 / July 2016
- Introduction, by Carl Klarner, pp 501 - 503.

- Reflect, Then Prepare for a Career Outside the Academy, by Jennifer K. Benz, pp 504 - 506.

- I Don’t Want To Be a Professor. Now What?! By Chelsea Clark, pp 507 - 509.

- On the Value of Fox-like Thinking, and How to Break into the Washington Policy Community, by Lee Drutman, pp 510 - 512.

- Neither Star Nor Gypsy: How I Found Happiness Outside Academia, by Adolf G. Gundersen, pp 513 - 515.

- The Intersection of Political Science and Media: Research at a Faster Pace, by Natalie M. Jackson, pp 516 - 517.

- Forget This: Choosing to Leave Academia after Tenure, by Carl Klarner, pp 518 - 520.

- Preparing for Unforeseen Opportunities Outside Academia, Kevin R. Kosar, pp 521 - 523.

- Using Quantitative Methods in Industry, by Olivia Lau and Ian Yohai, pp 524 - 526.

- From the Ivory Tower to the CIA: Reflections from a Career Intelligence Analyst, by Brenda Seaver, pp 527 - 530.

- Finding a Place in Political Data Science, by Andrew Therriault, pp 531 - 534.


Also in Summer 2016, the journal Politics, Groups, and Identities published this symposium on racial and gender diversity in the profession, certainly worth understanding:


Dialogue: Diversity in the Discipline. Politics, Groups, and Identities, Vol. 4, issue 3 (2016):

- Carol Mershon & Denise Walsh, Diversity in political science: why it matters and how to get it, 462-466
- Paula D. McClain, Gloria Y. A. Ayee, Taneisha N. Means, Alicia M. Reyes-Barriéntez & Nura A. Sediqe, Race, power, and knowledge: tracing the roots of exclusion in the development of political science in the United States, 467-482
- Vicki Hesli Claypool & Carol Mershon, Does diversity matter? Evidence from a survey of political science faculty, 483-498
- Lynne E. Ford, Two steps forward, one step back? Strengthening the foundations of women’s leadership in higher education, 499-512
- Wendy G. Smooth, Intersectionality and women’s advancement in the discipline and across the academy, 513-528


Here are some beamer templates that might be useful.

- Template and associated files, from Skyler Cramner: Put these three files (beamerthemeUNC.sty, beamerthemeUNC_sty.zip, unc-header.png) in the directory where you are creating your beamer PDF file. Include the phrase \usetheme{unc} in your preamble.


Templates for academic poster presentations. These abound on the web, and here are a few sites for you. Let me know if you find others that are particularly useful.

- U Nevada Reno

- Steven Liebel's site at Colorado State, using LaTex

-more LaTex templates

- the MPSA partner site, MakeSigns.com


Template in LaTex for a cover letter allowing you to customize to each school. Thanks to 2013 PhD Jeff Harden now at the University of Colorado for providing this. Customize the Tex file to your needs. TeX, PDF versions. Also from Jeff, a Research Statement and Teaching Statement. Here are various files courtesy of 2013 PhD Will Winecoff, now at Indiana University: Cover Letter, CV, Research Statement, Teaching Statement. Link here to Will's web site.


Link here to two github pages for 2019 PhD alum Rob Williams, who has graciously made available his UNC dissertation template meeting the formatting requirements for the UNC Graduate School, and a LaTex template for job applications. Thanks, Rob, for helping out.


Check-list for your individual web site:

- easy to find contact information, including your web site address, email, and the date of the document?

- easy to get copies of materials relating to: a) cv; b) dissertation; c) other research; d) teaching; e) full copy of job application materials; f) at least one clean dissertation chapter included there?

- teaching evaluations included? (You can get your UNC teaching evaluations here: https://www.digitalmeasures.com/login/unc/faculty)

- easy to find Frank Baumgartner (UNC Placement Director) and David Culclasure (UNC Placement Coordinator), with emails?

- easy to find emails and names of your letter - writers / recommenders?

- all downloadable files given file names that make sense such as "MyLastName_CV_August2018.pdf" or "MyLastName_Dissertation_abstract.pdf" or "MyLastName_Teaching_Statement.pdf"? (The reason I stress this is that the person downloading your materials may be / most likely is the chair or a member of a search committee, and they are probably downloading files for several candidates. Your file called "CV.pdf" will be over-written by the next one with the same name, or, more likely, lost on someone's computer. So take these naming conventions seriously.)


Many sites give various bits of general information.

- John Patty's site, Math of Politics, The Math of Getting a Job in Political Science, from 2014


A 2014 post from the Chronicle of Higher Education, sort of designed to be humorous, about the hard odds in the academic job market, comparing it to Hunger Games.


Are you ready to go on the market? Here is a backwards calendar of graduate school. This dates from 2000, but some things don't change so it could have been from 1950 and it probably would have been the same.


UNC logos, gifs, and pictures

Go to a page from the UNC Computer Science Department with a bunch of different UNC seals and logos, or just take one of these below.


Note to readers: This page was meant to be a service to UNC job candidates. But it is on the web and I am glad if it ican be of help to other young scholars. I no longer serve as placement director, so this page has been permanently archived as of November 2023.