Teaching Careers (for Statisticians) at Liberal Arts Colleges and Research Universities

teaching job-market higher ed

Rewards and challenges of teaching careers in higher ed

Mine Dogucu https://minedogucu.com

This blog post is now published in Amstat News. To cite it:

Dogucu, M. (2020). Teaching Careers (for Statisticians): What You Should Know. Amstat News, (521), 32-34.

At the beginning of the month, I was on a panel titled Teaching Focused Careers in Colleges, Universities, and Industry. The other panelists were Garrett Grolemund, Rebecca Nugent, and Katie St. Clair. The panel was chaired by Beth Chance. For those who were at JSM 2020 but were not able to make it the recording of the session is available until the end of the month. I will summarize a few points that I made during my talk.


I have always been interested in teaching careers. I have taught at liberal arts colleges and research universities. Despite my interest in teaching positions, I knew very little about them during my graduate school years. I will share some misconceptions that I had.

What does the job look like?

I teach at the University of California Irvine which is one of the 10 UC campuses. We have about 36,000 students and about 30,000 are undergraduate students. About 45% the undergraduate students are first-generation. I teach in the Department of Statistics. We do not have a bachelor’s degree in statistics but we do have a bachelor’s degree in data science. We are on a quarterly system, and my teaching load is 2-2-2 pre-tenure. This would be equivalent to 2-2 teaching load in the semester system. In case, you are not familiar with the term teaching load, it is essentially the number of courses one has to teach. A 2-2 teaching load would mean 2 courses in the fall and 2 in the spring.

My typical work week mainly consists of teaching and preparing for teaching. I spend a lot of my time preparing materials, (now) videos, assignments for my students and share them on my course websites (e.g. introdata.science). I hold office hours. I also hold teaching office hours where graduate students and faculty come to ask me questions related to teaching. On a weekly basis I attend meetings: with my TAs and graders; weekly department meetings; and with my collaborators. In order to meet with my collaborators, I have to work on tasks related to our projects.

Rewards and Challenges

As I had the chance to teach both at SLACs and research universities, I have been able to make some comparisons between different experiences of teaching at different institutions. I have found both SLAC teaching and research university teaching to be fulfilling in their own ways. Some of the experiences I share may be unique to my own experiences.

Small class sizes SLACs have smaller class sizes. I even have taught a course for 7 students at a SLAC. At my current job, I taught a class with 220 students. Small class sizes have given me a great opportunity to get to know my students and witness their process very closely. This has been a very rewarding experience.

With the small class benefit of SLAC, however, comes a bigger demand for time for students. I had much longer face time (now it would be zoom time, I guess) with my students. In SLACs, there is an open-door policy where students and other faculty can walk in to your office at any time. It feels great to be part of such a community. However, this left me with limited time for my own projects.

Large class sizes Teaching large classes can be very challenging from a course management perspective. I should also note that not all classes that I currently teach are large classes. For instance, I teach a Bayesian course and that is always capped at 30. Teaching large classes will always be a challenge but it is also possible to learn teaching methods and tools to teach more effectively in large classes. Teaching a large class also means teaching with a team of Teaching Assistants (TAs) and graders. For instance, at SLACs I spent a big chunk of my time grading which I very rarely do1. Working with a teaching team also provides me the opportunity to learn from graduate students. Also being in a department with graduate students (which is very rare in SLACs) gives me the opportunity to work with graduate students on pedagogical projects.

SLACs cherish teaching and most faculty members are evaluated with similar expectations when it comes to teaching and research. The culture around teaching usually is a positive one. In research universities, on the other hand, research faculty are bigger in number and thus the culture around teaching varies greatly from department to department. Thus having to explain yourself, your projects, your research which may be different than what other faculty define as research can be challenging depending on the department.


I want to recommend few resources that I hope would help anyone considering a teaching-focused careers.




You may want to follow these blogs because they are created by statistics educators and may give you ideas about teaching, job market, and statistics.

Tips for the Job Market

In this section, I try to provide tips that I seldom see. So some of them may seem unusual. I wish someone had told me about them when I was on the job market.

Before Getting on the Job Market

While on the Job Market

After Getting an Offer

Last notes

Best of luck to anyone who is currently on the job market. I finished my PhD three years ago and since then had three faculty positions. I even made the hard decision to quit from a tenure-track job in the past. I feel settled at UCI where I work with colleagues who value teaching and hope to be here in the long term. I am sharing this because the pandemic may bring temporary jobs to many people on the job market. I hope you will find the strength in knowing that there are many faculty out there who have changed jobs, and institutions and then were able to find more permanent jobs.

If you are currently working on your teaching statement, feel free to read a previous post on teaching statements. Also, feel free to check out these job openings.

  1. When I was an undergraduate student I used to work as a grader at my SLAC so it may be possible to have a grader in some SLACs↩︎