MLA Connected Academics Panel

Expanding Career Possibilities for PhDs

Modern Language Association of America Annual Convention, Austin, TX
Friday, January 8, 2016, 8:00-9:45 a.m.

Exploring Your Options

Libraries and Archives

Although a master’s degree in library science or archives is generally the recommended entry point for a career in either field, an increasing number of positions list an advanced graduate degree in a related subject field plus experience as an acceptable alternative (example1, example2). Note that a “love of reading” is probably the least important skill to bring to the job interview, however!

Grantwriting and Fundraising

Many non-profits need experienced writers to assist with grantwriting and fundraising. It is also a good option for freelance and consultant work. Before you consider doing freelance grantwriting, however, familiarize yourself with the ethical issues involved, particularly around setting rates.

Facilitation and Strategic Planning

The skills learned in teaching are similar to the ones used in event facilitation and strategic planning. You may want to take some special courses to get a grasp on the jargon and tools of the trade, however. Many universities offer continuing education in management topics, often associated with their business schools, which are good places to start (example).

Finding clients can be challenging; check for posted Requests for Proposals, although often contracts under $5000 are not posted.

Freelance Research and Consulting

In addition to full-time careers in libraries and archives, it is possible to freelance. In this capacity, you may work directly with libraries, archives, and museums on special projects, often funded by grants. To find these types of opportunities, it may be worthwhile to attend professional conferences and join subject interest groups.

You could also assist others with their research. Some archives maintain lists of proxy researchers for hire (example1, example2); you usually need to get an orientation to the archives before you are eligible to be a proxy.

Legal Considerations for Consulting and Freelancing

Resources for Consultants and Freelancers

Consultant Directories and Freelance Job Boards

RFPs and Proposal Writing Resources