Four people have assented to allow me to post their responses to questions about the STS job search here on my blog. Dr. Jennifer Tucker is the Associate Deputy Administrator of the National Organic Program at the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA). Dr. Casey O'Donnell is an Assistant Professor at Michigan State University, Department of Telecommunication, Information Studies and Media. Dr. Sean Lawson is an Assistant Professor at the University of Utah, Department of Communication and Media Studies. Dr. JC is an associate professor at a university. Jennifer and JC graduated from Virginia Tech's STS program, while Casey and Sean graduated from Rensselaer's STS program.
Why did you select an STS PhD program versus other types of social science PhD programs that perform research on science, technology and society?
JC: "I was interested in studying engineers and engineering, and their relationship to science, politics and culture. Only STS offers this possibility"
Casey O'Donnell: "The theoretical frameworks in STS were those that best fit my desired empirical realm of inquiry."
Sean Lawson: "The interdisciplinary nature of STS appealed to me, as did the ability to focus on either historical or contemporary (or both) topics."
How did you find and apply for your first job after receiving your PhD in STS? How did you find and apply for your current job?
Casey O'Donnell: "I'm moving to my second tenure track job now at Michigan State starting Fall 2012. Both were identified through a email listserv."
Sean Lawson: "I signed up for professional society email lists and then created persistent email searches for job postings within the messages that I received. I also signed up for job posting alerts from the Chronicle of Higher Education."
Jennifer Tucker: "I was a full-time consultant throughout the time I was getting my Ph.D. I moved into a different job about 2 years after finishing my Ph.D. -- the degree was definitely a factor in my switch. As for my current position, I had consulted for the organization that I now work for -- I was impressed with the mission, the leadership, and the people, so when a position opened up, I applied."
What are your recommendations for STS PhDs on the job market?
I'll say this. A memo circulated here at UGA recently was of the opinion that the communication college should no longer hire communication scholars, because they were doing nothing interesting. Instead, they pointed to people/programs like RPI/MIT/Cornell's STS programs as exemplary of what they're looking for."
Sean Lawson: "First, all STS Ph.D. candidates are on the job market from day one of graduate school. Grad students should be encouraged to write and publish as soon as possible. Presenting at conferences is good, but many job candidates these days have an impressive publication record coming out of their graduate program. Those who are not publishing as grad students are at a disadvantage.
Second, cast a wide net. There are not a lot of jobs in dedicated STS programs each year. So most STS Ph.D.'s will need to find jobs elsewhere. Luckily, STS allows one to be conversant in many areas. So, finding a job in a non-STS department is entirely possible. But again, STS grad students should be encouraged to think about where they might make a professional home for themselves after graduation and should be aware that in all likelihood this will not be in an STS department."
Jennifer Tucker: "Talk to a lot of people, network throughout your degree program, stay connected with past colleagues, and stay open to all the possibilities that may lie ahead. Let go of any pre-conceived notions about what a 'good career' is and see what's out there with an open mind."
JC: "Unfortunately not many STS Ph.D. candidates consider engineering studies as a subfield worth studying. Yet engineering schools is where a lot of available resources (and jobs) are. Engineering programs are in great shape (in spite of the rest of the economy) with graduates entering a job market with only 4% unemployment and some (like my students) making 6 figures right off the bat."