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I have couple of offers for a visiting assistant professor (VAP) and for post-doc positions. I'm debating which to choose. I'm finalizing my PhD now at a top 50 R1 school in engineering. The VAP positions are at top 20 private liberal arts colleges. The two post-docs positions are one at my current university and another one at a top 30 R1 university. To be honest, I started applying for tenure track (TT) positions two months ago in February (I know it was already late! But I had some serious change of plans). I'm debating whether to go for a VAP or post-doc (at my school, since my research area is very new) position. I feel that I will get a better chance of getting some interviews during the next cycle of applying to TT positions (when I start applying in Aug/Sep.).

Here are few facts that might be useful;

  1. My goal is to go for a TT position (R1 university).
  2. Publication record is high (about 3 times higher than the average number of publications for a fresh PhD graduate in my field)
  3. My current advisor is famous (he started my research area), basically I feel that my recommendation letters are good!
  4. I'm not worried about salary/benefits (since both positions are not TT)
  5. Received multiple awards/fellowships during my PhD
  6. Proposal/Grant funding writing abilities - average (not very experienced)
  7. I have heard from multiple people that getting a VAP for 1-2 years might look bad/questionable on a CV on the contrary to having a post-doc.

Any help/comments/experiences/suggestions shared will be much appreciated.

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    "TT" == "tenure track"? – Ric Apr 28 '16 at 19:05
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    Why are you not considering the second postdoc at the other R1? Its the logical choice. – faisceaux Apr 28 '16 at 19:09
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    This question is just not specific enough. The job titles are pretty meaningless (I would call a VAP position a postdoc); what actually matters is your responsibilities, the research environment etc. So, forget the job title and evaluate the jobs on their own merits. – Ben Webster Apr 28 '16 at 19:11
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    @BenWebster The post-doc is solely research oriented. The VAP is mainly teaching (3-3) with no start-up package or apparent possibilities of collaboration with other faculty. Basically, they want a teacher. – The Guy Apr 28 '16 at 19:22
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    Building on what @faisceaux said, your point 3 might not be as strong as you think it is. In my field, for instance, you need five great recommendation letters to get a faculty research job. One famous professor can only write one letter. – user4512 Apr 29 '16 at 2:22
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If your goal is to get a TT job at an R1 university, you would be a lunatic to choose a job with 3-3 teaching load with no research support over one that is research focused. I'm extremely confused about why you're even asking this question.

EDIT: To specifically address "if getting a VAP job for a year would enhance my resume (to be able to compete for a TT position) over having a post-doc," the answer from everything I know is a resounding "no." It will just look like you couldn't get a decent postdoc. Maybe teaching 1 or 2 classes if you can arrange it with one of the postdocs would be a net positive, but the VAP job you're describing would be a disaster for your research, and that's what gets you the sort of job you say you want. Maybe you're extremely productive and in a very in demand field, but if your research is good enough that you can take a year off (effectively) and still get a TT job at an R1 university, then you can potentially get an even better job (or be in a better negotiating position, or be in a better position to get tenure) if you keep your research up for another year. Certainly very few people are so productive that they can afford to take such a huge risk.

  • Ben, I'm asking if getting a VAP job for a year would enhance my resume (to be able to compete for a TT position) over having a post-doc. In other words, I feel that my research ability is good (based on the number of publication compared to others in my field). The point of the question is, will having a teaching experience in terms of a VAP (not a TA which I have been doing for the last 2 years of my PhD) is needed. I'm asking for input and suggestions, hence I posted this question. – The Guy Apr 28 '16 at 19:42
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    @TheFireGuy I'm absolutely with Ben Webster here. The VAP offers teaching experience, but no research support. R1 jobs are going to hire based on research and teaching is going to be a distant secondary consideration. If you really feel like you need to get some teaching experience you can always ask to do some additional teaching on your postdoc, like one class a semester or something. That gives you the best of both worlds. – shane Apr 28 '16 at 23:42
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    @TheFireGuy Your "research ability" as you put it, is not only "Has published some papers" but "Continually publishes research work". You're essentially suggesting you stop doing that for a bit. Consider that, if you are as ahead of your peers as you think you are, what you are doing in effect is letting some of them "catch up" and then compete with you on equal footing. Your goal should be to widen your lead. – Fomite Apr 28 '16 at 23:49
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    You are in engineering; you want to get a TT position at an R1. This means that you need to build your research portfolio a lot more than you need to build your teaching one. // Also, between the two Post-Docs, you should choose the one that is not your current university. That is even the case if the other university were ranked lower. For various reasons it does look better to not do your postdoc at the same place you completed your PhD. @TheFireGuy – Willie Wong Apr 29 '16 at 3:16

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