University of Minnesota
Office of Human Resources

Institutional Fit

Determining Institutional Fit and Your Career Plan

Before you begin your job search, you need to think about the kind of institution, position, and community you would want to be part of as a faculty member. This is not a minor decision in a new faculty position, you are likely to spend 60 or more hours a week working on your teaching, service and research. If you are not happy with your institution, colleagues, and/or community, your professional experience can be exhausting instead of stimulating.

To identify your "best" institutional fit(s), you need to be honest in setting your own desires and needs. The following worksheets and links will provide information to help you make that determination. First, answer the following questions:

  1. What percentage of time would you like to spend on the following?
    • Research
    • Teaching
    • Service to the Institution
    • Service to Professional Organizations
    • Service to the Community
    • Family
    • Other
  2. Now think about what your "ideal" situation would look like for the items below. Be as specific as you can about your desires and needs.

    • Department (size, specialties, national ranking. . .)
    • Research (facilities, projects, participant availability, funding, collegial partnering. . .)
    • Teaching (student population, class size, presence of graduate students, course load. . .)
    • Service (of what sort, on-campus, off-campus, related to teaching or to faculty role. . .)
    • Institution (steering committees, curriculum development, governance. . .)
    • Professional Organizations (e.g., governance, editing a journal, paper reviews for conferences. . .)
    • Community (service learning, consulting, volunteerism, church work. . .)
    • Family (children, schools, partner benefits. . .)
    • Community (size, location, access to culture, acceptance of or presence of a diverse population. . .)
    • Other (job security, opportunity for travel. . .)
  3. What is your biggest concern regarding finding a position "that fits"?
  4. How might you address that concern in setting out your job search and institutional choices?

Now you are ready to identify the type of institutions(s) in which you would fit as a faculty member. To do this, you need to understand something about different types of academic institutions.

Generally, academic institutions fall into a five categories: Research (Ph.D.-granting), Comprehensive (Masters-Granting), Liberal Arts (Bachelors-granting), Community and Technical Colleges (Associates - granting), and specialized institutions (tribal colleges, seminaries, etc.). Like all typologies, this one includes a wide range of diversity within each category rankings, specialties, available funds, and so on.

For a complete discussion of institution types and statistics, go to the Carnegie Foundation Classifications site at

Developing an Academic Career Plan

Drawing on the information in the Institutional Fit Worksheet, work to develop a Career Plan that includes the components listed below. First, though, you need to think about where you want to go in your career and consider how are you are most likely to get there. If you need additional information, think about how and whether informational interviews or library or on-line searches regarding institutional types and roles could assist you. The Bibliography and On-Line Resources listed on the Resources page can help you in this inquiry.

Career Plan Components:

  1. What types of institution(s) will you work at? (Community/ Technical College, Liberal Arts College, Comprehensive University, or Research (Ph.D.-granting) University?)
  2. What type of colleagues and collegial support do you need?
  3. What type of students do you like to teach? (Grad, undergrad, or both?)
  4. What is your scholarship/research plan? What does it require? (Lab space, subjects, community organization collaboration, start-up funds, grants?)
  5. What type of community environment will meet your personal and professional needs? (rural/urban, area of country, etc.)
  6. What are the faculty, administrative and/or academic leadership roles you would like to pursue? (Would you like to be chair? Dean? VP? Minister of Education?)
  7. What kind of service (additional concerns regarding campus and surrounding community) would you like to pursue?
  8. What family issues need to be consider? (Spouse, children, same-sex partners)
  9. What other personal needs/wants/concerns do you have?

Once you've answered these questions, develop a timeline for your career. Turn the answers into a graphic, a flow chart, a mind map, whatever you like and provide yourself with flexibility to accommodate different potential paths (if this, then that) or handling dual roles.

Final Note:

The idea of integrating ideal with realistic is an important part of mapping an overall path. You may not get your "dream job" right out of graduate school, but you can situate yourself in a way that makes it possible for you to be competitive for that job when it does open up.