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I am currently in a VAP at a selective liberal arts school for psychology, first year post-grad. I have five publications but probably won't get any offers for tenure track positions without an additional postdoc. I also am trying to find a position in which research is an element, but not the first priority of the job (which is a really narrow path, it seems).

I am situated in the Midwest and am trying to find a position on the east or west coast, which limits things somewhat but it has also pushed me to apply for positions I wouldn't have necessarily considered before if they are in a good location. For example, I know that I have been at least "moved up" in the hiring process for 2 lecturer positions at large, high-ranking universities on the east coast.

I haven't been able to find a lot of information specifically about "lecturer" positions in US universities. I know they can come with some security and focus mainly on a lot of teaching. I enjoy teaching and would be happy to make it the focus of my career, but I am still holding on to the ideal of the tenure-track line. If I did take a lecturer position at a high-ranking school, I figure I can depend on potentially a better starting salary than a tenure line at a smaller or lower-ranked school- while it would be at the cost of career growth, would it be incorrect to assume I could just make a living that way and possibly get some job security down the line? (For example, I know there have been "senior lecturer" designations and such that seem to indicate security of employment). Or even if there was stability but no growth?

Can anyone speak to maintaining a lecturer position as a kind of permanent position? I know that they are generally term to term, or are on some contract every x years (for example one of the positions I applied to is renewable on a 3 year contract). I know that lecturer positions are not really helpful to transition to tenure-track lines focused on research, but what about teaching-focused schools? Or, even, if one just stops at lecturer?

I feel at the moment that taking a lecturer position would sort of end my tenure-track aspirations on paper, but also I don't want to end up doing term positions or adjuncting for 10 years (true stories about this have been told to me). I could do a postdoc but the return rate on those is generally later in the year, which comes at the expense of current opportunities if I get any offers. Additionally, although I'm young in my career I am already feeling myself fatiguing and I don't want to go through years of moving, instability, financial insecurity, etc. I started grad school initially thinking of the classic tenure track position, focusing on research, etc. but I didn't really enjoy the research aspect as much as I thought, so I shifted my focus to teaching (apparently not a good move). Since I don't actually know anyone who's gone in for a lecturer position or what kind of growth there is there, can anyone weigh in on their stability, enjoyability, growth etc?? And if I take it and do want to try to pursue a tenure track line somewhere else, could it ever be useful?

Sorry for the length! Thank you for reading!!

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    I'm having trouble making sense out of what you're really wanting to know. It's a diverse but competitive market. Apply to literally hundreds of places, take what you can get. My impression of the perma-adjunct life-of-horror people is that it's self-inflicted: they are only willing to work within a very limited area and have access to a very small fraction of a job market that rewards willingness to move. This is usually because of a spouse or other family, so can have a good reason, but it's still limiting themselves to 1% or less of what's out there. – zibadawa timmy Jan 16 '18 at 23:59
  • Varies with institution. E.g., I have a permanent Lecturer position (with tenure-like protections) at a U.S. East coast university. – Daniel R. Collins Jan 17 '18 at 0:52
  • VAP? Ventilator for pneumonia? In-school suspension room (from vapid)? – aparente001 Jan 17 '18 at 11:48
  • I still don't know what VAP is but I got to the end of your post. If you want job security, do the postdoc. – aparente001 Jan 17 '18 at 11:53
  • VAP="visiting assistant professor" This is title used by many universities for faculty who are appointed to short term non tenure-track positions. – Brian Borchers Jan 17 '18 at 15:02
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The context here is clearly the US system. I'm responding based on my own experience working with people in such positions at my institution and elsewhere.

This is ultimately a personal decision. There are certainly many institutions where instructors have been employed for decades and even reached retirement. Having a stable job is better than having an unstable job or no job at all.

However,

  1. Lecturer/instructor positions are not generally tenure-track positions. You won't have the protections of tenure, and if your institution comes on hard times, you'll be one of the first to be laid off.

  2. Although some institutions have "senior" instructor or lecturer job titles, there isn't nearly the same scope for advancement as for a tenure-track faculty member. In particular, tenure-track faculty can advance from assistant to associate to full professor and ultimately into department chairmanship or higher administration. In terms of salary, you're likely to be stuck at a level below the tenure-track assistant professors for the rest of your career.

  3. Instructor/lecturers seldom get to teach any but the lowest level (remedial, developmental, and first year) courses. You probably won't have the opportunity to teach advanced undergraduate or graduate courses. You may not have much control over the syllabus, textbooks, etc.

  4. Teaching loads can be very high in these positions. There just won't be time for any professional development.

  5. Taking one of these positions for a year or two might help your chances of getting a tenure-track position at a teaching-oriented institution (because you'll have gained some teaching experience to balance with your research background), but after you've stayed in such a position for a while (say five years), your chances of being able to move into a tenure-track position at even a teaching focused institution will decrease substantially (because at that point your research will have stopped, and even teaching-oriented institutions want some research from tenure-track faculty.)

In short, it's a deprofessionalized dead-end job.

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    -1 Not true in all cases. E.g., I have a permanent Lecturer position with tenure-like protections at a large U.S. East coast university. – Daniel R. Collins Jan 17 '18 at 0:53
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    @DanielR.Collins Your case may be an exception, but my impression is that Brian’s answer is true in most cases... – I Like to Code Jan 17 '18 at 3:49
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    You may not have much control over the syllabus, textbooks, etc. Possible. On the other hand, my experience has been that full-time lecturers often "own" lower-level classes, and become responsible for selecting textbooks, developing syllabi, supervising and coordinating other instructors, implementing significant changes where warranted, etc. This may or may not be a good thing, depending on your point of view. – Nate Eldredge Jan 17 '18 at 4:31
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    -1 The professionalism, control, workload, security, advancement opportunities, and respect attached to "Lecturer" (or "Teaching professor") positions vary significantly among different universities and different fields. Yes, in many departments lecturers are disposable cogs with ridiculous workloads, but definitely not in all. – JeffE Jan 17 '18 at 17:05
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    I'd certainly be interested in seeing examples of how some institutions have structured these positions so that instructors have opportunities for salary, career advancement, professional development, and participation in shared governance that are comparable to the opportunities available to traditional tenure track faculty. Knowing what kinds of policies to look for could help the OP and others in navigating the job market. – Brian Borchers Jan 18 '18 at 15:15

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