I got my Ph.D. in math in the last year and am currently in the first year of a 3-year research-oriented postdoc at a large public American university. I am finding it harder and harder to focus on research, not necessarily because of teaching, but for various reasons which I don't think are relevant to the question, and I am beginning to think that I would like a career as a lecturer. I enjoy teaching quite a bit, and I think I'm fairly good at it. If, as I originally intended when I accepted the postdoc, I still planned to apply to research-oriented tenure-track positions, I know what I need to do to be prepared for that process (whether at a large research school or a smaller college which still requires research of its faculty, e.g. a tenure-track position with somewhat higher teaching emphasis). But it seems from looking at purely teaching postings on MathJobs that, for example, I will definitely need three letters of recommendation addressing my teaching. I honestly don't know how to go about finding people to write these letters (for the tenure-track career path I would expect to have to get one teaching-oriented letter). I have a teaching mentor who has observed me a couple terms who could presumably write one letter, but I don't know about the other two. Do chairs write teaching letters? I'm frankly a bit afraid to tell anyone at my institution that I'm not sure I want to do research anymore, since they hired me with a reduced teaching load to give me more time for research. I actually really like the place where I am, and think, at this point anyway, that I would like a lecturer position here, but as I'm currently doing a postdoc here, I have no idea how likely it would be to be hired as a lecturer (even with, let's say, an excellent teaching record).

Note that I'm talking about a lecturing position, where the only expectation would be teaching and possibly also service. I'm not talking about the tenure-track jobs with more teaching emphasis which still require some research output (although I guess it's possible, though by no means certain, that the research incidentally produced from my thesis could make me eligible to be hired for such a position). But I think that I really just want to focus on teaching (preferably at the university level).

  • I think this will depend on where you'll be located and the type of university you teach at. In Australia, a full-time lecturing position still requires good research output and service. You'll still be expected to produce good research in the way of books, articles etc, alongside your teaching load in accordance with your level.
    – awsoci
    Mar 30, 2015 at 22:17
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    You might want to search around this site for "evidence of teaching" for similar questions with some answers. A couple examples: academia.stackexchange.com/questions/29563/… academia.stackexchange.com/questions/34831/… academia.stackexchange.com/questions/29568/…
    – A.S
    Mar 30, 2015 at 22:32
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    There are significant advantages to a teaching intensive tenure track position (with some very modest research expectations) in comparison with a lecturer position. Typically, the tenure track faculty get to teach the upper level courses while lecturers teach mostly precalculus courses- if you want to teach courses at the level of calculus and above you really need to be a tenure track faculty member. Furthermore, lecturers don't normally have the advantages of tenure (including in most cases sabbatical leave and protection from layoffs.) Mar 31, 2015 at 0:51
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    Re "Hoping to stay in the USA." If you're not already a citizen or permanent resident of the US, you should be aware that few colleges will be willing to sponsor a non-resident for an H-1B visa and then a green card in a lecturer position. There are plenty of qualified citizens and permanent residents. There is much more willingness to do this for tenure track faculty. Mar 31, 2015 at 1:08
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    This organization has programs to prepare postdocs for teaching: cirtl.net Mar 31, 2015 at 12:15

2 Answers 2


Not as a complete answer, but as information the questioner and others might find useful:

At an R1 U.S. university, for example, it would be difficult for a postdoc to make a transition to a longer-term lecturer or even adjunct... if only because those positions are spoken-for, and quite competitive in a certain localized sense, which happens (in my observation here in Minneapolis) to not be entirely bad, insofar as there is tacit (which is bad) recognition (which is good) of seniority and experience and such things.

A few faculty may be "outraged" that you "betray" the "research Grail" by deciding as you have, but you have to write that off. Most faculty will be very understanding that you've "achieved clarity", for whatever reason. They will also understand that you need to be able to document teaching and pedagogy and mentoring. NB, it's not just "teaching", but a larger thing, "pedagogy", and a somewhat-different thing, "mentoring". Senior-projects, participation in REUs, and similar, are relevant.

And, somewhat nonsensically, an unfortunate fraction of the up-scale four-year colleges have created the concept that "undergrads do research", so you should be careful to not over-promote any potential disaffection with (actual?) research in your job apps. That is, the spin in those cases would have to be that you've had some epiphany about preaching to the masses about . You'll not want to play that stunt for serious undergrad teaching places, though, because they'll probably think you don't understand (the) reality. :)

So, yes, actively discuss with your faculty there, and actively arrange to have people (faculty) have some acquaintance with the broader range of your activities. NB, "not just teaching", but pedagogy, mentoring, ... maybe outreach... The sane people will be understanding, if maybe not very interested personally, and some should be interested enough to help you document your efforts (presuming you make them!) in the directions you want to claim you care about.

  • Dear @Paul, Thank you for the response. This is extremely helpful. Mar 31, 2015 at 19:11

You're not in a bad position at all, since you've got secure employment for the next few years. Use this time to get as much teaching experience as possible. I would start by talking with your post-doc supervisor and your department chair and explaining that you would like to get some more teaching experience during your post-doc and ask whether it would be possible to arrange this with your department.

It's typical in these cases for the department to pay some portion of your salary corresponding to your teaching in place of the grant that is supporting your post-doc. Your post-doc advisor will most likely be happy to have some of this money back to use for other purposes related to the grant.

Having just conducted a faculty search, I can tell you that most of our applicants who were in post-docs had managed to teach some (maybe one or two courses per year) during the post-doc. Although our position required background in both teaching and research, that kind of teaching experience would clearly be of some help in applying for jobs with a mostly teaching focus at four year institutions as well as jobs where the requirement is for a mixture of teaching and research.

  • Dear @Brian, Thank you for the helpful response. I should mention that my postdoc salary is paid entirely by my institution, i.e., I have a postdoctoral mentor (somewhat informal), but his grant does not pay any of my salary. So there isn't really any wiggle room for extra teaching (I've offered to teach during the summer, but they say they don't have enough classes to have postdocs teach in the summer). But by the time I apply for jobs in the fall of 2016 I will have taught 6 classes, with a fair amount of diversity (not counting the two I will be teaching in the fall of 2016). Mar 31, 2015 at 0:31
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    If you're really committed to a teaching career, it would be reasonable to start applying for tenure track faculty positions in the fall semester of 2015. More time spent in a primarily research post-doc is not particularly going to help you in searching for a teaching focused position and might in fact hurt your chances by making the search committees think that you're committed to a research career. Mar 31, 2015 at 0:45
  • Another option that you should consider is applying for visiting assistant professor positions. These typically come with a full time teaching load and no research expectations, and this would give you a chance to get more teaching experience and get a sense of what it might be like to teach at an institution with different expectations of teaching and research. Mar 31, 2015 at 0:54

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