Sometimes I stumble on my words when I speak to audiences about why graduate students should prepare for multiple career paths, not limited to the tenure track. It’s not that public speaking makes me tongue-tied, but that I have not settled on a simple term for non-tenure track careers that satisfies. After reading several articles about alternative academic (or, alt-ac), nonacademic, postacademic, non-tenure track, applied, and professional careers for PhDs, I have not settled on language that best suits the complexities of this seeming dichotomous relationship of being employed by a university to teach and research, or not. Perhaps, the “right” terminology eludes me because as one who has shifted from pursuing an academic career to working outside the academy, I know that the challenge is larger than semantics and terminology.
A determined set of careers, usually those involving teaching and publishing on scholarly research in contingent, temporary or tenure track roles, can be categorized as “academic careers.” It usually includes those job functions related to teaching and publishing on scholarly research, be it as a contingent, temporary or tenure track faculty member. You typically do not choose your job location, function, salary range or job search timetable, instead you develop subject matter expertise and then search for the few schools that are looking for candidates your expertise at your particular professional level (i.e., assistant professor, postdoc).