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I'm a physical scientist, having completed both my Ph.D. and postdoc at top 5 U.S. universities. After working in industry for more than 10 years, I decided it was time for a career switch to academia, not due to economic reasons, however due to a strong passion for teaching.

I taught for 5 years in graduate school, and established my own private tutoring service years ago. In total, I've been tutoring for more than 12 years. Recently I spent one (1) year teaching at a top 10 public university, and am now teaching at a community college.

During spring 2014, I sent out ~32 assistant professor applications, and heard back only from one school. I interviewed there, however did not get the position.

QUESTION: Is there a possibility that, once discovering my tutoring service (simply a matter of a Google search), colleges and universities might not want to hire me?

Interested only in science education research, my passion is exclusively in teaching at the undergraduate level, and I've used the tutoring to hone my skills over the years. Understanding exactly where students experience the pitfalls of my branch of physical science has provided me with a unique insight into teaching, however I'm not certain everyone perceives it this way.

I very much appreciate anyone who indicate whether or not the image of a tutor might take a toll in terms of applications and interviews.

Thank you! Pensive

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    It doesn't seem likely to me that tutoring would harm your application. However, your long absence from academia (and from academic research?) might give a hiring committee pause. Anyway, 32 applications to 1 interview is not at all an unusual ratio, unfortunately. – Nate Eldredge May 29 '14 at 6:07
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    I would go farther than @Nate Eldrege's comment: 1 interview off of 32 applications is encouraging. Apply for approximately five times as many jobs next time and hope for proportional scaling: then you'll probably get a job. (Some people apply for hundreds of jobs and don't get an interview.) Also, I can't even really see why you're worried about your private tutoring service: it sounds positive rather than negative. Is there some wrinkle there that you haven't enunciated? Why wouldn't you list it on your own CV? – Pete L. Clark May 29 '14 at 6:47
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    Doing tutoring = teaching experience = good. Doesn't matter who paid you. Unless there's some wrinkle, as Pete says, then it's only going to sound bad to someone if you make it sound bad. – Moriarty May 29 '14 at 12:53
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I decided it was time for a career switch to academia,[...], due to a strong passion for teaching.

As others have already mentioned,

  • sending out 32 apps and getting one interview might actually be a good success rate in physics.
  • your absence from academic research for 10 years (if indeed you've been absent in the publications game) is a much bigger issue than your private tutoring service.

But I wonder also where you're applying. If you're focused on teaching, but are applying to R1 schools where research is the main focus, then you're less likely to get any traction (especially if you indicate this love for teaching in your applications). I realize that this sounds awfully cynical, but the fact is that at research-focused universities you're competing with people with heavy research profiles and an unbroken sequence of postdocs and publications.

At a more teaching-focused school, it's possible that your tutoring experience will be viewed as a positive, because it demonstrates a track record and commitment to teaching.

  • Of course, at a more teaching-focused school the OP will likely be competing against hundreds of other applicants who have spent the past 12 years teaching at the college level, which will likely be viewed more favorably than tutoring alone. – Santiago Canez May 29 '14 at 16:30
  • That may very well be. No one said it was easy :). – Suresh May 29 '14 at 16:36
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The only thing I could see that might be a negative about having this service would be the possibility of creating a conflict of interest—you should not be a university professor while simultaneously offering paid tutoring services in disciplines you would be teaching. In that sense, you'd be "double dipping," and it would be a serious ethical issue—are you somehow "rewarding" students who sign up for such a service?

You could address these concerns directly in your statement, if you feel it's appropriate enough. More likely than not, however, it's just a numbers game. With hundreds of applications for any open position, and only a handful of candidates to be interviewed, you probably "met expectations."

  • I don't see what's unethical about offering paid tutoring in the same discipline you teach (which is, after all, the area in which you're probably most qualified to tutor), as long as you don't tutor students enrolled in your classes. Students enrolled in your institution, but not your classes, might be a gray area. But if you tutor students who have no connection to the courses you are teaching, I don't see a conflict. – Nate Eldredge Nov 3 '14 at 5:41

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