PhD at maturity: Starting a consulting and teaching activity to prolong professional career

PhD at maturity: Starting a consulting and teaching activity to prolong professional careerAs I’m growing older, also do it my friends and contacts, so I’m experiencing, in particular after the occurrence of the last financial crisis, that professional careers start ending at a certain age (around 55?), and we should find alternative activities to prolong career (and income) until at least you turn 70.

And one of the most logical alternatives is to use your own long professional experience, that is, start consulting, activity that is linked to knowledge and personal branding, which fit perfectly well within an academic career: PhD, teaching, researching, publishing in scientific journals and networking.

But it’s clear that the transition is not done overnight and have to be planned in advance, at least 5 years. I did it more than 10 years ago: I wanted to be a university professor and now I’m delighted with my vocation, although it’s much more demanding than I thought at first.

On the other hand, it’s also true that you can be a good professor without a PhD, but I don’t recommend it because it makes no sense and has no future, as a doctorate degree gives you the basic skills a researcher needs, puts you as an equal with other academics, and when opting for an adjunct or lecturer job you will have more merits than the others, having into account that for a full-time position a PhD is a must.

Furthermore, in Spain at least, most private universities cover their adjunct/lecturer positions with successful working professionals without teaching or researching experience, but increasingly they are raising the requirements. Lately, for example, ICADE Universidad Pontificia de Comillas, a small business university in Madrid, were asking the following requirements (minimum and valuable ones) for an adjunct (part time) position:

  1. PhD
  2. Accredited as a university professor
  3. Publications in international academic journals
  4. Extensive professional and teaching experience
  5. And ability to teach in English

Honestly, how many professionals are there with that CV in Spain or even Europe? But you may develop it, of course, I’m of the idea that everything can be achieved with time and effort. So, go for it!

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Cops’ and Profs’ professional careers: more alike than you think

With this post I risk that you tend to believe that I’ve gone completely mad, if you don’t already think so, but I see an interesting parallelism between the careers of university professors and that of police inspectors, that can enrich us all. I’ve managed to unite it conceptually because I wanted to be a police inspector during my college years, and my teenage son is considering it now.

Cops' and Profs' professional careers: more alike than you think

1. We are talking here about vocational public service professions.

2. You can make a career in the private sector, but these higher education and security services are mainly provided by the government.

3. The academic career has four general professional phases (there could be some differences in some countries), as the high level career ranks in the police:

  • Assistant Professor Vs Police Inspector: newly qualified, with no professional experience.
  • Lecturer Vs Chief Inspector: with at least 6 years of professional career.
  • Senior Lecturer Vs Commissioner/Superintendent: around 15 year career.
  • Full Professor Vs Chief Commissioner/Superintendent: If you’re show endurance and excellence during 10 more years.

4. To access these professions a particular training and studies are required:

  • Professors have to obtain a doctorate in their specialty, with a college degree.
  • Policemen have to pass a training course of one/two years, with the requirement of a university degree (or a minimum of credits), at least in Europe.

5. In both professions are required to perform a research activity to achieve results and progress in your profession.

Obviously, the amusing issue is the similarities between these two professions, but they also have many differences of course, which can help us to approach our educational careers in another perspective.

However, I am not so sure whether the police profession is so demanding and multidisciplinary as in higher education as we have to teach, research, and / or publish in academic journals, although the police one is supplemented, as far as I know, with the daily risks they face. So maybe being a cop, PhD and a part-time lecturer of law and criminology is a good choice of life, which is what I recommend to my son without any hope of being heard, of course.

Teaching or research: what goes first?

Teaching or research - what goes firstBeing a university professor is very complex and demanding.

Professors generally are required to perform the following activities:

  1. Teach, conducting lectures and seminars; and mentor students.
  2. Perform advanced research in their fields, publishing their work in scientific journals.
  3. Provide consulting and advising functions, being this way closed to the reality.
  4. Conduct administrative or managerial functions at university or departments.

Is it possible, as some claim, to teach without research? At the end, being a good communicator has nothing to do with research.

What about research? Being a superb specialist does not mean that you are a good teacher, one can end up losing the wider scope of knowledge needed to teach.

But we are not just teachers (being good educators) nor pure researchers (improving the world), we are professors, we should master both of them; it makes sense and is required by all university and educational bodies all over the world, setting even the exact time for research and teaching.

Both are complementary and interwoven.

  • Teaching based on researching support the learning process and brings quality to teaching:  Research enriches teaching.
  • Research is fundamental in developing new knowledge and bridging the gap between academia and reality: Teaching develops research.

And going back to practical reality, the experience of successful professors is that both teaching and research spur our academic careers: without research one cannot be much effective in teaching, and vice-versa.

Research in Sciences: Pieces of advice from an outstanding researcher

m guillenMontserrat Guillén was born in Barcelona in 1964. She received a Master of Science in Mathematics and Mathematical Statistics in 1987 and a PhD in Economics from University of Barcelona in 1992. She got an MSc in Data Analysis from the University of Essex (United Kingdom). She was Visiting Research faculty at the University of Texas at Austin (USA) in 1994. Montserrat also holds a Visiting Professor position at the University of Paris II, where she teaches Insurance Econometrics. Since April, 2001 she is chair professor of the Department of Econometrics at the University of Barcelona. Montserrat was awarded the ICREA Academia distinction.

Her research focuses on actuarial statistics and quantitative risk management. She has published many scientific articles, contributions to book chapters and books on insurance and actuarial science. She is an Associate Editor for the Journal of Risk and Insurance – the official journal of the American Risk and Insurance Association, a senior editor of Astin Bulletin – the official journal of the International Actuarial Association, and chief editor of SORT – Statistics and Operations Research Transactions.  Montserrat was awarded by the Casualty Actuarial Society and received the International Insurance Prize. She is a highly cited academic in the field of risk management and insurance. She was elected President of the European Group of Risk and Insurance Economists, the Geneva Association, in 2011. She serves in many scientific boards, international programs and steering committees and conducts R&D joint programs with many companies.

Gaudeamus. How do you select your research projects, or do they select you? 

Monserrat Guillen. I usually apply for research project funding to academic institutions. The topics are usually basic research with a very long term and ambitious perspective, which means that the application is not going to be immediate. When private funding comes into place, it is usually because a very specific research with direct transfer to the industry is expected

G. You usually collaborate with international scholars, it should not be easy to coordinate and organize research, is there any aspect worth mentioning that could help us researchers regarding international projects? 

MG. There must be a leader. The leader must be open-minded, active, motivating and has to set up short term and long-term goals for the team. Everyone involved must know his/her role in the project and why his/her contribution is important to the whole group.

G. If you had to prioritize, what do you put in the first place: teaching or researching? 

MG. Both. Even if a lecturer is very good, good teaching is even better with good research. I find that usually we forget that research advances have to be introduced in the syllabuses and this is essential for high quality education. Research also benefits from teaching, because communicating research results needs many of the skill that is developed when teaching.

G. What is the research activity you like most?

MG. I really enjoy the instants when a new result is obtained. There are some seconds of doubt, and then an explosion of joy when the result is confirmed. Sometime this happens when working on my own and sometimes this is shared with colleagues. If I obtain a results and no colleague is next to me, I would immediately tell it with my colleagues.

G. Once you have a draft research document, what key issues should be taken into account until it is published?

MG. Audience, structured, correctness in all sense

G. Internet and open access is changing the scholarly publishing industry, is it also changing research activity?

MG. It does because searching information is much easier than it used to be. Reading the essential papers is important when there are so many out there.

G. How do you choose the journals where to publish?  Or if you prefer, what are you looking for in a journal?

MG. The topic and the impact factor. I look for a sign of quality

G. Finally, what advice would you give to novel researchers (for example, about collaboration, time dedicated to research, make an impact, etc.).

MG. I would recommend spending a lot of time on how to explain the research result. Some very good contributions remain get no notoriety due to a poor presentation. Correctness, clarity and motivation are crucial for the success of a paper.

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