The Professor Is In: The Essential Guide To Turning Your Ph.D. Into a Job

Great Resource for Graduate/PhD Students

The definitive career guide for grad students, adjuncts, post-docs and anyone else eager to get tenure or turn their Ph.D.  into their ideal job

Each year tens of thousands of students earn their Ph.D.s but only a small percentage land a job. For every tenured professor or well-paid former academic, there are countless underpaid and overworked adjuncts, and many more who simply give up in frustration.

To ensure success, you need a plan. You need to learn when, where and what to publish, how to write effective job documents and ace your interview, how to cultivate references and craft a competitive CV, how to avoid the mistakes and ‘adjunct traps’ that sink many of your peers, and how to make the leap to nonacademic work, when the time is right.

Karen Kelsky has made it her mission to help readers solve the mystery of the academic job market. As a former tenured professor and department head, and  creator of the popular and widely respected advice site The Professor is In, she has helped thousands land their dream careers.

Who is Dr. Karen?

“Karen Kelsky is a sort of macabre ‘Ms. Mentor’ for the 21st century” ~ Matthew Pratt Guterl
Karen Kelsky is the Founder and President of The Professor Is In, which provides advice and consulting services on the academic job search and all elements of the academic and post-academic career. She speaks nationally and internationally on topics related to Ph.D. professionalization, and is a weekly columnist at Chronicle Vitae.  Her latest book is The Professor Is In: The Essential Guide to Turning Your Ph.D. Into a Job (Random House 2015).

Karen is a former tenured professor and Department Head with 15 years of experience teaching at the University of Oregon and the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.   Her Ph.D. is in Cultural Anthropology, with a focus on Japan, from the University of Hawai’i.  Her B.A. is from the University of Michigan.  Her first book, an academic monograph, Women on the Verge: Japanese Women, Western Dreams, was published in 2001 by Duke University Press.  She trained 5 of her own Ph.D. students who have gone on to successful careers in academia and related fields.  She worked as a committee member with numerous Ph.D.s and Masters students, and hundreds of undergraduate students.

Karen held her first Academic Job Market Workshop while still a Ph.D. student at the University of Hawai’i, after she was offered her first tenure-track job.    It took her two years to land that job, and she wanted to pass on the hard-earned lessons of those years to her fellow graduate students.  That was the origin of The Professor Is In, which launched in 2010.

Karen was born in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, a city she still loves.  She spent two years after leaving her tenured position working in the federally-funded McNair Program at the University of Oregon, where her job was to advise qualified UO undergraduate students to prepare for and succeed in Ph.D. programs.  With the success of The Professor Is In, though, she is now devoting all of her time to the business.  She lives in Eugene, Oregon with her partner, two children, and rabbit Penelope.  She loves to dance, read, and travel.  In her previous life she made and sold jewelry from Japanese paper and fabric in her business Paper Demon Jewelry. That is on hiatus now, as she’s occupied managing thousands of clients at The Professor Is In, writing a weekly advice column for Chronicle Vitae, and speaking nationally and internationally to university audiences and scholarly associations about the academic job market and Ph.D. professionalization.

Learn more by reading The Professor’s Testimonials.   Read examples of her advice to students and junior faculty on the page “Pearls of Wisdom: The Blog” And get in touch—she’s always happy to hear from you.

Contact her at:


The Book


For academic inquiries or for desk/examination copies, All other inquiries, email


Blurbs and Reviews (and see some reader reactions below):

“Kelsky offers smart, frank, and often witty advice to lead applicants through the complicated process of securing a tenure-track position..this cogent, illuminating book will be indispensable.” – Kirkus Reviews (see full review below)

“This book reveals the unspoken norms and expectations of the job market so that graduate students, PhDs, and adjuncts can weigh the risks and chances of success in a tenure-track job search, or they may seek nonacademic options. Kelsky offers wide-ranging, valuable advice and an important perspective for job seekers choosing either of these two career paths.” – Booklist(see full review below)

“Karen Kelsky’s The Professor Is In offers a compendium of smart, clear, direct advice to anyone seeking to turn a PhD into an academic job. She covers everything from how to build a competitive profile, to writing cover letters and resumes, to negotiating for that final job, postdoc, or grant. She’s not afraid to give examples of ‘don’ts’ and she models the ‘do’s.’” I’m about to meet with a doctoral student on the job market right now—and I’m giving her my copy of The Professor is In.” Cathy Davidson, Distinguished Professor, CUNY Graduate College, Director, The Futures Initiative.

“If you would like your academic career to begin in delusion and end in disillusionment, then by all means, ignore Karen Kelsky. If, however, you want unvarnished straight talk about the academic job market—and how to navigate it—then heed her, and heed her now.” —Rebecca Schuman, education columnist for Slate

“Every graduate student in academe should read this book. But also: if you teach graduate students, if you mentor graduate students, if you worry about graduate students, and even if you’re thinking about becoming a graduate student, you should read this book too. It’s just that indispensable.”– Michael Bérubé, Director, Institute for the Arts and Humanities, Penn State University

“It’s tough out there, but no one understands how academic jobs are landed better than Karen Kelsky. If you are a graduate student, The Professor Is In offers sound, realistic advice, and it may be the most valuable book you ever read if you intend to have an academic career. – William Pannapacker, Professor of English at Hope College and columnist for the Chronicle of Higher Education

“Explains in exquisite detail exactly how to land a tenure track job. In her genial yet unabashedly thorough book, Kelsky coaches readers through the critical topics they need to know. I wouldn’t want to navigate the inhospitable weirdness of the academic job market without it.” – Adam Ruben, author of Surviving Your Stupid, Stupid Decision to Go to Grad School

There’s no one way to guarantee that you get a job in academia, but there’s a thousand ways to lose one. In this book, Karen Kelsky levels the playing field, providing practical insider knowledge to demystify the job market and help you improve the odds. – David M. Perry, Journalist, Chronicle of Higher Education, Director of Undergraduate Research, Dominican University

“A realistic account of what it takes to turn a Ph.D. into a job when all the jobs seem to be disappearing, The Professor is In offers sobering, impeccable advice from one of the most honest voices in higher education today.”–Greg M. Colón Semenza, Author, with Garrett Sullivan, of How to Build a Life in the Humanities: Meditations on the Academic Work-Life Balance

“Karen Kelsky tells the disheartening truth about the difficulties of getting through graduate school and finding a tenure-track job in a funny, irreverent, and ultimately encouraging way. Getting a job is about more than being smart; read this book if you want to be prepared, professional, and on your game.
-Elizabeth Reis, Professor and Chair, Women’s and Gender Studies Department, University of Oregon

“This is the book I wish I had when I was a grad student. As The Professor Is In, Karen Kelsky delivers generous, savvy advice for academic job seekers. Unflinching, supportive, and honest, there is no other book like it. All Ph.D. students (and their advisors) should have a copy on their shelf.” – Carole McGranahan, Associate Professor, Anthropology, University of Colorado at Boulder

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