Acing Your College Teaching Application

By Crappell, Courtney; Tan, Siok Lian | American Music Teacher, October-November 2012 | Go to article overview

Acing Your College Teaching Application


Crappell, Courtney, Tan, Siok Lian, American Music Teacher


During my morning commutes to school, I often marvel at the fact that I landed a teaching position at an academic institution. The competition for collegiate jobs seems to increase annually, and the world's recent economic turmoil has contributed to the scarcity of job listings. Looking back to the start of my academic career, which began with graduate school, I realize how well my professors guided me through my early career path to prepare for success. Since this preparation was such a crucial aspect of my education, I make every effort to pass along this type of information to my students and colleagues. Learning from years of experience, Siok Lian Tan has considered this topic in detail, and her words of wisdom below will certainly help others prepare and plan their careers successfully.

--Courtney Crappell, NCTM

In today's extremely competitive job market, college music teaching positions are few and difficult to come by. There are many qualified candidates graduating with terminal music degrees from top universities and conservatories every year. Many graduates seek college teaching positions because teaching music in college is one of the most fulfilling and stable jobs for musicians. Although the job market is tough, there are still candidates that "win" the coveted few college teaching jobs advertised every year.

To be competitive in the music academic job market, candidates not only have to master their instruments or subjects and cultivate good teaching skills, they also need to devise an effective job search plan and fully prepare for the demanding application process. As a college music faculty member for 14 years, I have experienced the academic job search process from both ends of the spectrum: first as a job applicant and later as a member of several search committees. Here are some practical points for prospective candidates interested in applying for and securing an academic position. Since most AMT readers are music teachers, the following discussion is intended for those seeking positions in applied studio teaching and pedagogy.

Building Your Professional Image, Network And Credentials

First impressions are lasting impressions. While in college, it is important that you project a positive professional image when working with your professors and colleagues. The music world is interconnected; these people will serve as your network of references in future job searches. You need to develop practices that demonstrate a solid work ethic. Besides mastering the craft of your instrument, learn how to teach and communicate effectively in speech and writing. Cultivate traits that are attractive to your future employer such as diligence, responsibility, organization, respectfulness, and being considerate and cooperative. Make it a habit to reply to e-mails or phone calls with in 24 hours. Seize as many opportunities as possible to perform and present your scholarly work while in college. Professional organizations are great avenues for networking and presenting your creative work. Therefore, it is beneficial to participate in professional organizations related to your field early in your college career. As a student, be cautious with utilizing social networking sites such as Facebook because future employers may have access to your posts, and negative posts may compromise your future job search effort.

Getting Your Job Application Portfolio Ready

Academic music positions are usually advertised in the College Music Society's Music Vacancy List and the Chronicle of Higher Education. It is helpful to check job listings periodically to see what positions are advertised and notice the details of the application requirements at least one or two years before you enter the job market. Start honing skills and developing experiences that meet the requirements of the advertised positions. Your basic job application portfolio should include an application letter, a curriculum vitae, a statement of teaching philosophy, a professional-quality CD or DVD of your performance and at least three recommendation letters. …

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