Do you know Karen? Yes No

Karen Kelsky

Founder and President at The Professor Is In


  • Kirkus Review

    In 2010, after 15 years as a tenured anthropology professor and department head, Kelsky (Women on the Verge: Japanese Women, Western Dreams, 2001) left academia to found The Professor Is In, a counseling service and blog aimed at helping graduate students mount a job search. Aware of the current competitive job market, with colleges and universities increasingly trying to save money by staffing departments with part-time adjuncts, Kelsky offers smart, frank, and often witty advice to lead applicants through the complicated process of securing a tenure-track position. She has no illusions about her readers' ability to do this on their own. Graduate study is infantilizing, she maintains, a process of hazing that leaves students "insecure, defensive, paranoid, beset by feelings of inadequacy, pretentious, self-involved, communicatively challenged, and fixated on minutiae." Advisers range from moderately helpful to neglectful to downright discouraging. They may not have any idea of the realities of the market into which they are sending students, which Kelsky thinks is "terribly, patently unfair, in that several generations of Ph.D.'s are now victims of an exploitative system that trains them for jobs that no longer exist, and denies that fact." The author covers in detail every aspect of the job search: building a strong record through carefully chosen publications (prestigious peer-review journals are the gold standard, and in the humanities and social sciences, a book contract is crucial); going after grants; presenting at national conferences; honing a CV; writing a succinct, sophisticated cover letter and teaching statement; presenting oneself in an interview and during a campus visit; and negotiating an offer. "Grad students," she writes, "remain in an extended juvenile status long after their peers outside of academia have moved on to fully adult lives." For those students—and anyone who cares about them—this cogent, illuminating book will be indispensable.

  • Booklist Review

    Kelsky, entrepreneur, blogger, and former academic, reports that the “American academy is in crisis.” State funding has declined for public colleges and universities; tuition and student debt have increased; costly administrative hirings (of deans, provosts, etc.) are balanced with numerous budget cuts, including fewer educational programs and faculty positions, eliminated course offerings, and closed campuses. Adjuncts, many with PhDs, are hired as temporary teachers with salaries at a fraction of tenure-track faculty. The author aims to empower current or future PhD job seekers to make informed career choices, indicating they will find almost no university opportunities for permanent and secure tenure-line positions commensurate with their advanced training. 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. — Mary Whaley

  • Reviews of the Book

    “If you want unvarnished straight talk about the academic job market—and how to navigate it—then heed Karen Kelsky, and heed her now.” —Rebecca Schuman, education columnist for Slate

  • Reviews of the Book

    “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

  • Reviews of the Book

    “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

  • Reviews of the 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, Columnist, Chronicle of Higher Education, and Director of Undergraduate Research, Dominican University


  • University of Hawai'i

    • 1996 Ph.D., Anthropology of japan

About Me

Karen Kelsky, Ph.D., 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).

"I employ the anthropological gaze in a systematic analysis of the unwritten codes and norms of the academic job market, in order to disclose those to young academics seeking tenure track jobs, grants, and other forms of professional success. I provide the unvarnished jobs-oriented professional advising that your advisors should be providing, but usually don't. I blog extensively on my own website, in Inside Higher Ed and Chronicle Vitae."

My disciplines and areas of professional expertise include…

  • The academic job market

Current work

"The Professor Is In: The Essential Guide To Turning Your Ph.D. Into a Job" is here on Amazon. Random House, 2015.


  • The Professor Is In

    • 5/2011 - Present Academic Career Coach and Consultant
  • University of Illinois at Urbana Champaign

    • 8/2004 - 5/2009 Department Head, East Asian Languages and Cultures
    • 8/2003 - 5/2009 Associate Professor, Anthropology
  • University of Oregon

    • 8/2001 - 5/2003 Associate Professor, Anthropology
    • 8/1996 - 5/2001 Assistant Professor, Anthropology