I've applied to be a teaching assistant (helps with running undergrad labs and marking reports/tests/exams) every year so far during my PhD, but have never been successful. I'm getting to the end of my PhD, and despite my best efforts, have no teaching experience, thus that section of my CV is blank.

Would this be a bad sign for post-PhD employment?

  • 10
    This depends quite a bit on where you are looking for the post-PhD employment.
    – Arno
    Commented Jan 25, 2018 at 18:04
  • Thanks Arno - I'm keeping things open but leaning towards staying in research and doing some teaching/lab work.
    – Anonymous
    Commented Jan 25, 2018 at 18:20
  • 3
    "but have never been successful" A lot of people would love to be as unsuccessful as you in this regard. Don't worry. The standard TA experience (grading, office hours etc.) isn't considered a major achievement in one's CV anyway; if you need to prove that you're able to teach, look out for other options (e.g., give a couple expository talks at student seminars). Commented Jan 25, 2018 at 19:10
  • 6
    Your question is too general: the answer depends wildly on your academic field and geographic location. Commented Jan 25, 2018 at 23:31
  • 1
    Not to mention your career goals. Commented Jan 26, 2018 at 14:54

5 Answers 5


Outside of academia, the lack of teaching experience will have little or no negative effect on your employment prospects.

If you are going into academic positions, the significance of not having been a TA will depend greatly on your field and the type of institution you will be working at. For instance, if you are at a research-intensive university, teaching experience isn't as essential as at a small liberal-arts college. In a similar vein, an engineering graduate is less likely to be expected to have teaching experience than a PhD recipient in, say, mathematics or the humanities.


If you want to stay in academia, then teaching is going to be part of the job, and you will need some experience in that field. Not having that at the end of your PhD is not a disaster, but you will need to rectify that blank spot during your postdoc phase. How big of a deal this is will depend on your discipline and your country.

  • 1
    "If you want to stay in academia, then teaching is going to be part of the job" not necessarily. However the competition for research-only jobs is even more intense than for "normal" jobs.
    – user9646
    Commented Jan 26, 2018 at 8:42

The short answer is yes. aeismail and Maarten Buis have already answered why if you're going into academic jobs, so I'll focus on non-academic jobs.

The price you pay for getting teaching experience is less time spent on research. This might matter if one is going into a research job, but if not, then whether one has 5 publications or 3 isn't really that different (unless you've written things like Nature papers, in which case the employer might recognize the Nature brand name). What matters is whether or not you have the degree + which university awarded it. Since you're going to have these regardless of whether or not you have teaching experience, teaching experience is a "free" extra. In other words, having it never hurts and not having it is never good.

With teaching experience, you can claim more transferable skills. Even if you never go into a teaching job like giving private tuition, you can:

  1. Say you are able to explain difficult concepts to students. This is transferable to, e.g., explaining your company's products to prospective clients, or to the company's marketing department.
  2. Say you are able to mentor junior employees.

So: if you're able to get teaching experience, get it. If you can't, it's not critical, but it'll be a disadvantage.


I do wish to add - it also depends on your research abilities. My advisor, who happens to be a very new hire (at a top 10 university), was not a TA even once during his PhD. He's a superstar in his field. And yet, he got a tenured-track faculty position at my university.


Learning by teaching.

One of the most underrated experience in higher education is how much we learn when we teach. When I would see a topic for the first time, I would usually be left with the impression that I understood the topic pretty well. Looking back, this looks a bit like a delusion.

The process of having to explain the subject matter to a student helps us gain a depth of knowledge that we ordinarily don't fully realize was there.

Teaching while we learn also helps us get out of the curse of knowledge issue that plagues scholars. Some scholars will get so steep in there subject of study that they slowly lose the ability to speak intelligently about that subject matter to anyone on the outside. When we teach effectively, we have to get out of our own heads and see the world from other perspectives.

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