Post Academic


Last week on Post Academic (4/25-5/1)

Posted in Housekeeping by postacademic on May 2, 2010
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At the end of one week and the beginning of another, we catch our collective breaths on the blog and gather up links to some of the posts that have either cycled off the home page or might have been lost in the shuffle.  Enjoy the rest of your weekend, and thanks for reading!

* We covered some things grad students do over the summer–part-time jobs–instead of what they should be doing–studying for qualifying exams or working on their dissertations.  Caroline brainstormed for ideas here and here, while Arnold focused on his experiences teaching test prep to help you maximize your hourly rate and minimize the amount of work you take home with you.

* Caroline examined what academics can learn from marketers and what hamster worlders can learn from university administrators.

* Arnold found out who were 2007’s most cited scholars, who might also happen to be winners/losers in the “Bad Writing Contest”.

The Post Academic Survival Guide to Grad School: Your summer SAT prep and study center job

Since Caroline has been covering been covering the topic of part-time work the last few days and also because you probably can’t freeload your way through summer, it’s probably timely to discuss SAT and other tutoring jobs that might be available for the taking.  Mind you, Caroline and I were lucky when we did our summer part-time study center gigs, because there are tons of opportunities for this sort of thing in Southern California, partly due to Asian ethnic communities that have transplanted the study center ethos from their home countries here.  (If you think Kaplan and Princeton Review are anti-intellectual factories, they ain’t got nothing on the study centers in Taiwan, where your college future hinges on a single standardized test!)

Here are some tips about finding study center work and how to make the most of it (i.e., how to cut corners so that you’ll be able to use the summer to study for your qualifying exams or work on your dissertation).

1. How to find a job: Word of mouth usually works well in these cases, so ask your friends (as Caroline has suggested) and check your department listservs for summer job possibilities.  Also, look for study centers that aren’t just the big chains you’ve heard of, although indie operations might be harder to find in non-urban areas.  This where getting your M.A. or Ph.D. makes you an appealing candidate, since it’s more than likely you’re at a good or the only research institution in your area.  Study centers like to boast that they have teachers from Ivy-like schools, top-notch public universities, or colleges their students would like to attend, because they assume you can magically make that happen for them too.  Also, don’t think that positions are limited to SAT or achievement tests or AP classes: some “learning centers” offer courses all the way down to middle-school standardized tests, which I tended to choose because I didn’t need the stress of making sure high-schoolers got the SAT score they wanted.

2. What to expect: Academic purity trolls need not apply here, since this is a crass money-making enterprise mostly for the study centers and for you too.  Whatever class you take, be forewarned that, in almost all cases, you are just a glorified test-cramming baby sitter, especially if you are actually teaching young kids who are really going to the equivalent of day care.  But sometimes, it’s not so bad–like your college students, you’ll find some kids who are really smart, motivated, and that you’re happy to invest your time/energy in.  And because it’s hard to care that much about a summer job, the smart alecks are a lot funnier at this stage than they will be a few years later messing up the dynamic of your comp section.

As for pay, I got $20-$25/hr for my starting rate, though it goes up the longer you teach and also with the level of class you’re assigned.  The hard-core SAT classes for the tip-top students will offer a higher rate.  I’ve heard private tutors in big metropolitan areas can get up to triple-digits an hour and some folks who basically work full-time can get paid more than a TA salary, but that might more of a commitment than most grad students are looking for.

More after the jump… (more…)

How to Make the Most of Working Part-Time in Grad School

Image SourceIf you’re planning on going to grad school, unless you’ve been blessed with some incredible funding, you should plan on taking a part-time job. In most cases, having a part-time job is pure goodness: You avoid going into debt, and you’re building up extra skills in case you have trouble getting an academic job. We gave you some tips on good part-time job options, but what happens once you get the job? As long as you follow these three tips, you can get the most out of your side gig:

Ask people in your program what they’re doing first. You’ll save time and get a crash course in networking if you use your fellow grad students as a resource. They’ll know who is hiring and might be able to refer you.

Choose a job that complements your grad school work, if possible. It all depends on what you’re studying, but the ideal job suits your current skills while letting you build new ones. For example, teaching an SAT course can help new teachers polish their classroom skills. Or, building Web sites on the side can help you prepare interactive classroom materials.

Avoid taking on too many hours. If your boss likes you so much that she offers you more hours, you are already doing something right. But don’t immediately say yes. Check your budget first because you want to avoid debt, but you also don’t want to cut into the time you need to finish your graduate degree on time. Your degree should always come first.

Image from the German Federal Archive under a Creative Commons License, Wikimedia Commons.