Professionalization

Graduate training in literary scholarship can lead to any number of career paths, both expected and unexpected. The Department supports its students in a variety of ways; most particularly, our support centers on the attainment of a tenure-track job at a research university or liberal arts college. The current job market is challenging, but we believe that you will be in the strongest possible position when competing for jobs if you have presented a paper at a national conference and authored a provocative and original dissertation. Being able to indicate that the dissertation has been completed by the time you're sending out applications in the fall (even if it hasn't been defended or submitted yet) is vital.

The placement director, along with each student's dissertation director, other committee members, and the departmental faculty at large, aim to give all possible assistance to Ph.D. candidates seeking academic positions. In the spring, in advance of each job market season, a preliminary placement meeting is held where prospective candidates are provided with a Placement Handbook, complete with a range of sample materials supplied by successful graduate students in the department. All those who plan to go on the job market will spend the summer engaged in the extensive editing of the various documents required to compete successfully for an academic job (which include a CV, job cover letter, dissertation abstract, and in some cases a teaching statement) in close consultation with their dissertation committees and the placement coordinator.

In the fall, the placement director arranges workshops wherein the marketers can benefit from the advice of faculty members from other fields, contributing a valuable outside perspective as the job market materials are going through their final rounds of polishing and revision. The placement director also reviews the letters of recommendation, coordinates practice interviews to help candidates prepare for interviews at MLA, and is available for consultation about any other specific matters as they arise. For candidates asked to give a job talk as a part of an on-campus visit in the winter, we arrange for the presentation of a practice talk before an audience, an experience that has proven invaluable to our students -- as a way to get past the normal nervousness inspired by such an event and also as a source of constructive feedback when it matters most. Finally, we are available to consult with candidates in the conversations and institutional negotiations preceding their acceptance of a job offer.

We are strongly committed to training graduate students to become creative teachers and researchers, and we are also dedicated to helping them to become vigorous and viable candidates in a challenging academic job market.

Northwestern's English Ph.D. program enjoys a strong record of placement in tenure-track positions. In the last five years, the department has placed recent or finishing Ph.D.s in twenty-one first-time tenure-track positions, including such institutions as Boston University, SUNY Albany, Franklin & Marshall, Temple University, and UNC Chapel Hil.

A distinctive feature of Northwestern's recent Ph.D.s is their cross-disciplinary work in conjunction with such programs as African-American Studies, American Studies, Asian-American Studies, and Gender & Sexuality Studies.  Interdisciplinary studies undertaken by recent Ph.D.s also include film, history, history of the book, history of science, music, and photography/ art history/ visual culture. Our Ph.D.s have secured some of the best tenure-track positions in their respective fields.

Since 2005, Northwestern English Ph.D.s have moved to tenure-track jobs or postdoctoral fellowships at a wide variety of other institutions, including but not limited to: Boston University (American), California State University, Northridge (Renaissance/early modern), Franklin & Marshall College (American), Cornell University (Renaissance/early modern), Illinois Wesleyan University (Poetry, Renaissance/early modern), Marquette University (Comparative Modernism), St. Mary's College of Maryland (Renaissance/early modern), SUNY Albany (American), the University of Alabama, Birmingham (African-American), the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor (Renaissance/early modern), the University of Pittsburgh (Modernism), and the University of Texas, Austin (American).

Our students who have pursued careers outside the academy at the university level have moved to positions in editing, translation, library science, secondary education, the non-profit sector, and with organizations such as the Modern Language Association and Rotary International.