I plan to move to the US, and thus, looking for a less-competitive faculty position to start there. Later, I can find better jobs, but at this stage, I just need to find a position.

For an outsider, all the job ads are similar. How can I find which job is less-competitive.

As an example, is it really less-competitive to apply for a faculty position in Alaska or less-interesting states (due to geographical reasons, I do not know which).

NOTE: This is the additional question separated from my previous question, as advised by a moderator.

  • 3
    Alaska less interesting? Really?
    – gerrit
    Apr 8, 2014 at 17:08
  • 3
    Less competitive jobs may have less to do with location than, say, how well known the particular department is in certain research areas. Even for those departments which are not as well known, or are more teaching oriented, may still be competitive due to the overflow of candidates.
    – Mad Jack
    Apr 8, 2014 at 17:18
  • 3
    I'm afraid that (as an American) I don't know anyone who has successfully followed such a career path. I recommend that you simply apply to all positions which interest you and for which you are qualified.
    – Anonymous
    Apr 8, 2014 at 17:34
  • 5
    I doubt this strategy works at all. Because if a job does not require a very high level of skills, why do people give it to a foreigner? This logic is valid in any country and especially in US which has a good supply of PhDs who are looking for an academic job.
    – user4511
    Apr 8, 2014 at 18:34
  • 4
    At schools that specialize in teaching rather than research, what we're looking for when we hire is a candidate who is clearly interested in a career in teaching. Usually it is pretty easy to tell from an application than an applicant actually only cares about research, and is applying because s/he thinks it will be easy to get a job with us. We filter out those candidates as early in the process as possible.
    – user1482
    Apr 10, 2014 at 0:28

4 Answers 4


Although (see my comments), I cannot recommend this sort of career path, here are two ways for an outsider to determine which positions will be less competitive:

  1. Teaching load and pay. If the pay is poor, and the teaching load is high (say, 4/4 or higher), then the position will be less competitive.

  2. Look up the average SAT scores (easy to find via Google) of American schools to which you are applying. This is a reasonable (although not perfect) guide for the quality of the undergraduates that these schools enroll. Schools with lower averages will have less competition for faculty positions.

That said, all faculty jobs are highly competitive.

  • 14
    I was coming here to say the same thing. I've heard of searches that had more than 200 applicants for a job that paid $40k a year in a flyover state teaching 4/4. So, the competition is incredible everywhere. Plus, if you get a job like that you simply won't have time to publish and promote yourself sufficiently to get a better job later. Don't take an academic job at a bad place you don't think you'd like for the long haul, because that's likely where you'll stay your whole career.
    – user10636
    Apr 8, 2014 at 17:44
  • 1
    Is that 200 qualified applicants? I've heard of mixed research/teaching positions that remained unfilled due to a lack of qualified applicants.
    – gerrit
    Apr 8, 2014 at 22:38
  • 5
    say you have 200 applicants. maybe 50 don't have the ph.d.in hand. eliminate. maybe 50 don't really fit the specialty. maybe 50 more just haven't written anything or their letters of rec aren't inspiring or they went to a bad ph.d. program. that still leaves 50 people with ph.d.s and publications who came from good place that you have to beat. bear in mind too that we're talking about a marginal school too. A friend of mine got a job at an undergrad place with heavy teaching responsibilities this year that had just shy of 600 applicants for one position.
    – user10636
    Apr 8, 2014 at 23:48

The U.S. academic job market (at least in my field, mathematics) is very competitive, regardless of the institution and its perceived quality. Now, competition comes in various flavors. We have a lot of people looking for few jobs. That automatically creates competition. You need something to make yourself stand out from the other candidates.

My school is less-competitive as far as admission of students is concerned. Our student body is not that strong overall, although we get a fair number of really bright kids. We also have a 4/4 teaching load, and faculty salaries are relatively low. Our last job search was conducted almost ten years ago and we received in the neighborhood of 200 applications. At more research oriented schools, you may be competing with more applicants, and applicants who have very strong resumes relative to research. So, you're likely to be competing against a larger and more talented pool. This makes the situation even more competitive.

I thought that I was going to follow your intended career path, start out small, be able to spend some quality time with the family, and produce some great work that would allow me to move up to a better school. Didn't happen. I've been able to do some research, but not nearly enough, or of high enough quality, to allow me to move up. There are a couple of factors to keep in mind working in a less competitive environment, especially with a high teaching load. Your research time will be limited, and you won't have a lot of resources at your disposal (great library, colleagues who are fluent in your area, etc.). So, think carefully about what you want to do. Mine has not been a bad career, but it is not what I imagined starting out. As a general rule, it's easier to move down than up. So, I'd apply to the best places for which you're qualified and hope for the best.


Well as you mentioned, depending on the geographical location, reputation of the university, strong graduate (PhD and masters), and the size of the institutions you can make a good guess about the competitiveness of getting hired.

As for your reasons, I've heard from many scholars that it's better to wait longer and get a proper position than starting in a teaching-only university and burning yourself.

Any thoughts ?

  • Waiting is good for those who have a position in the target country. Waiting is not a good option for someone who is in a long way for immigrating/settling down in a new country.
    – user13854
    Apr 8, 2014 at 17:22

Note that second- and third-tier are often much less willing to sponsor H1B visas compared to R1s. This is not only because they have less money and less expertise with this, but some simply don't see the investment as worthwhile.

This puts a considerable hurdle in your path.

  • I have heard from a few international colleagues that sometimes 2nd tier schools are very happy to sponsor H1B visas since the timing often makes switching universities pre-tenure difficult meaning they are less likely then a comparable US citizen of getting poached. I don't know if it is true.
    – StrongBad
    Dec 28, 2014 at 21:38
  • Not really. Once you get the H1B, most people immediately apply for the green card (because if you do them immediately sequentially, you can use the same labor certification). That means you should get your green card by your 3rd year -- which is also when you're willing to fly the coop.
    – RoboKaren
    Dec 28, 2014 at 22:07

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