Let's say your career ambition is to end up at an R2-type university, with good research support and perhaps a 2-2 load. But during this job market year, you have the choice between a 2-year VAP position at a liberal arts college (teaching a 3-2 load), or a 2-year postdoc at an R1 that is all research. Which do you pick to get closer to that goal?
Date: 25 Mar 2015 15:57
Number of posts: 8
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Is this even a serious question?
Post-doc without a doubt (e.g., get grants/papers/connected).
Let me play contrarian here. Your job offer is really just one more course per year (3-2) than your dream job (2-2). You're really going to jump into a postdoc where it takes you one year to really get things going, learn the IRB, get your studies approved, start collecting data, and then just when the ball starts rolling, you're going to have hit the market again for the next cycle (in the fall)? OR, you get the security of a real tenure-track job which pays decently well, you get to do all the things you'd being doing in your dream job (just one more class per year; though most places give you buyouts, so your first year or two would likely be the same 2-2 load), and you can stay there for 4-6 years before having to hit the market again. I'm probably not like most, but I think I'd say go the 3-2 SLAC position.
It's hard to get tons done during one year in a post-doc (because you only have one year to beef up the CV prior to applying again, with the second year being when you interview). I've heard many people at R1s who mention that many folks who gets to the final fly-out stage are current assistant professors, with a handful of post-docs being considered. Search committees like to know that you can do the job they're asking you to do. You can prove that by having a solid track record.
Anyway, just a contrarian thought to consider.
Whoops. Sorry-just saw you said VAP, not TT SLAC. That changes everything. Take the post-doc! :)
I'm at a SLAC and did a postdoc when I think I might have been better off in a VAP for my goals. However, given your goal, I say postdoc, hands down. If your teaching experience is very thin or non-existent, try to adjunct one course while you're in your postdoc (you'll need permission and perhaps a pay reduction from your postdoc funding to do this but it is possible through, e.g., NIH funded ones). Most R2s would consider solo teaching a plus, but research will be much more important. However, if R2 is your goal you might also like to be at a 3-2 SLAC or 2-2 SLAC, in which case they will demand that teaching experience. So hedging your bets you could get some experience. But NOT teaching what will amount to 10 courses instead of 1. Consider that. Each course meets 3 (or more) hours per week, with probably about 6 hours per week of prep time, not including meeting with students. The semester is 15 weeks. When you do the math, think about how much less time you'll have for research as a VAP than as a postdoc. It's really a no-brainer!!
I would agree wholeheartedly with the idea of taking a postdoc over the VAP. The only reason to take the VAP, IMHO, is if you've run out of time on your postdoc eligibility (i.e. being more than 5 or 6 years out from your PhD). It sounds like you are still in graduate school, though.
1) I would highly recommend (along with others) that if you take the postdoc that you adjunct teach, especially "core" courses like stats or research methods or survey courses (cognitive, social, etc) that apply everywhere. Be aware though: adjuncting is kind of a time suck and has some disadvantages compared to a true faculty position. For example, you often don't even get an office in which to meet students. I once held "office hours" in a cafeteria!.
2) Two years is not too short to get some significant pubs; they just might be on data already collected. What you do NOT want is an R1 type "postdoc" that is really just a glorified RA position. I left a postdoc at very prestigious institution because of that reason. If you had resources as a VAP and could get published despite the not-horrible teaching load (I've seen worse) vs. being more or less an RA in a lab just starting up, take the VAP.
I second that. Watch out for the postdocs that are really RA positions. They exist and it's sometimes very difficult to figure out. Talk to people and ask what the resources are for postdocs, within the lab. Will you have access to RAs, subjects, subject running money (if fMRI), and be able to continue your own research program? I'm not sure what the best indicator would be but those RA postdocs can be career killing.