Mid-Career Academic

Reading some US job ads I came across the terms “early career”, “mid career” and “late career” applied to academics. As some of you may remember, I decided about this time last year that I had become officially middle-aged (defined as “closer to 50 than 20″). Now it’s struck me that I am also mid-career.

Think about it. I’ve been doing archaeology for a living since I was 20. Standard retirement age is 65 in Sweden. (This is likely to change as medicine improves and the demography morphs.) Currently, society expects me to have a 45-year career, all in all. And I’ve entered the middle third of that span. I’ve done more than a third of the archaeology I’ll manage before 65.

From my elevated mid-career position in Scandy archaeology, I can report to colleagues still in their early careers that things are pretty much the same. Still a lot of fun, still no steady job. One change that I do see (though I’m generalising from a slim set of observations) is that the grants tend to grow with the years.

Comments

  1. #1 Mattias
    April 8, 2008

    These things seem to differ considerably between different regional traditions. I finished my Ph.D. in England the year I turned 30. That is quite typical there, but here in Sweden that would be considered rather young. One factor in the circumstances is that in the U.K. there is not much one can do prior to having finished an authoritative thesis. In many other countries, conversely, important positions are held by people who never seem to finish theirs. I have a friend who does all the teaching in his department, but if he finishes his Ph.D. they will have to throw him out, because they cannot afford to pay him the rate of a senior lectureship.

    That, in my opinion, is irresponsible of the faculty board.

    / Mattias

  2. #2 Martin R
    April 8, 2008

    In my discipline it’s a pretty bad idea to complete your PhD before age 40. Those who do never get assistant professorships during the stipulated first 5 years after graduation, as we have to compete for those jobs with people who completed their degrees after racking up a lot of publications.

    if he finishes his Ph.D. they will have to throw him out, because they cannot afford to pay him the rate of a senior lectureship. That, in my opinion, is irresponsible of the faculty board.

    Indeed. And I’m sure your friend will appreciate it greatly if you make your views known to the faculty board. (-;

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