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You don’t need Margaret-Atwood-level writing skills to create a successful academic cover letter. Your scientific achievements speak for themselves.
Whether it’s a research grant or a lecturer’s position, this guide will show you how to display them in order to get the academic job you want.
In this guide:
- An academic school cover letter sample that aces any examination.
- How to format your cover letter for academic posts.
- A fill-in-the-blanks template that will produce your academic cover letter within 15 minutes.
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If you're looking for a different education-related cover letter sample, have a look at:
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- New Teacher Cover Letter
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See how this sample does it.
1. Academic Cover Letter Examples
This academic cover letter sample comes from Joyce, who is applying to be a professor of sociology. She will be required to demonstrate an ability to secure research funding, as well as providing world-class teaching to the undergraduate.
Let’s see how she does.
Academic Cover Letter Sample
Academic Cover Letter—Text version
Joyce C. Chaney Ph.D
122 Fairway Drive
San Jose, CA 95113
San Jose, Jan 5, 2020
Professor G. Smith
Dean of Sociology
San Jose State University
1 Washington Square
San Jose, CA 95192
Dear Professor Smith,
I am very pleased to apply for the position of Professor of Sociology at SJSU. I have 16+ years of teaching experience at undergraduate and master’s levels in Sociology, Criminal Justice, and Criminology. I hold a Ph.D in Sociology, having defended a thesis entitled “The resurgence of fascist ideologies in post-Cold War Europe” in 2007. I feel like continuing this research is crucial in the 2020s.
I have held a teaching and research associate position at University of Houston since 2003, and have designed and implemented 16 new Sociology and Criminology programs into the curriculum, including the vastly popular “Victimful Crime: White Collar Criminality”, which we have had to expand two times, in 2005, and 2006, from an initial 30 places, to 50, and then 75. All in all, I have taught 2000+ undergraduates and 1000+ master’s students, improving the graduation rate on the undergraduate on Sociology and Criminology degrees from 61% in 2004, to 72.5% in 2019. During my tenure, this department has carried out over two dozen quantitative studies, two of which churned over one million data points. I have been instrumental in securing funding for the majority of these studies, having secured over $175k for my own 5 studies, and helped secure over $500k for other faculty.
I am impressed whenever I read a SJSU publication, such as “Are Rural People more Anti-Immigrant than Urban People?” by Professor Garcia, and I also want to contribute my funding-seeking skills as well as sound research background to help push forward the research at SJSU, cultivate the next generation of empathetic social scientists, and broaden the body of knowledge on racism, prejudice, and hatred.
Joyce C. Chaney Ph.D
Let’s hit the books.
2. How to Write a Top-Of-The-Class Academic Cover Letter
1. Use a Professional Cover Letter Format
You’re an academic, your job happens to involve a lot of writing. Often chaotic, ideas-flying, tangents-bouncing, trying-to-make-a-breakthrough kind of writing. Exercise great care when formatting your academic cover letter. You can’t trip up here.
This is how not to lose points on your cover letter format:
- ‘Align Left’ the text, and don’t use justification.
- Set even, margins on all sides, 1-inch at a minimum.
- Match your resume font—go for the classic. Helvetica might even be too wild in the context of an academic cover letter.
- Use 1.15 line spacing. Leave a line between each section, and between paragraphs.
- 1-page is always enough for a cover letter.
Make sure you check these steps again at the end—sometimes formatting can get messed up mid-way, especially when copy and pasting.
Let’s run down what to include in your cover letter for graduate school.
2. Address Your Academic Cover Letter
List your contact details in the header, making sure it matches your resume header. Do not omit your physical address or phone number—some institutions still favor the traditional methods. Underneath, write down the date and city, and below, the details of the department head.
Addressing a cover letter for academic jobs does not differ that much from other jobs. Make sure you get all the positions, academic and honorary titles correctly, as well as the exact physical address—check that you’re sending your cover letter and all attachments to the right campus.
Check against our template:
Academic Cover Letter Header
[ Your Full Name]
[ Academic Title ]
[ Physical Address ]
[ Phone Number ]
[ Email Address ]
[ Date ]
[ Department / School Head ]
[ Academic / Honorary Titles]
[ Academic Department ]
[ College Name ]
[ Address ]
[ City and Zip Code ]
Expert Hint: If you’re applying online, there are some specific issues to keep in mind when sending your academic cover letter electronically, which our email cover letter guide will clue you up on. At ResumeLab, there is also always more cover letter tips, dos and don’ts to know.
3. Identify The Post You’re Applying To and Introduce Yourself
You are in luck. Applying for academic positions, you are not going to be in a complete sea of candidates, neither is there going to be recruitment happening for dozens of positions at once. This doesn’t mean you can skip over these crucial parts, it just means you have to keep it super concise.
Address the head of the relevant faculty by their proper title and surname. Start your cover letter by clearly identifying the post you are hoping to take, and provide a very solid reason—your background and tenure—that justify your application.
You can just replace the [blanks] with your information:
Academic Cover Letter Sample: Introduction
Dear [proper academic title] [surname]:
I am pleased to offer myself for the position of [position title] at [institution name]. Given my [X]+ year research and teaching background at [past institution names], I have contributed to the understanding of [your specialization/main field] through my research into [research subject], and I have the necessary knowledge and tools to create engaging [subject] courses for [bachelor’s/master’s/doctorate] levels.
Expert Hint: The Bureau for Labour Statistics lumps together a lot of us as “Post Secondary Teachers”, but the growth trend is still strong, with a 11% job growth outlook in the next decade. Nail your academic CV, and you’ll be one of the new 155,000 academics.
Double your impact with a matching resume and cover letter combo. Use our cover letter generator and make your application documents pop out.
Want to try a different look? There's 21 more. A single click will give your document a total makeover. Pick a cover letter template here.
4. Make Your Case
There are a few things for you to focus on depending on the position you’re applying to. If you’re applying for a teaching position, you should focus on the positive outcomes you achieve for your students.
If you’re seeking a research position, you would do well to describe your previous achievements and findings, or the outline of the study you are seeking to do at the new institution. If you have been successful at securing outside funds for your research, that’s a huge thing to mention.
A self-fulfilling researcher, any faculties’ dream.
Sample Cover Letter For Academic Jobs: Middle Paragraph
Due to my passion for broadening the body of knowledge in [subject matter], I have always been an active researcher, either always having a study to do up my sleeve, or assisting my excellent colleagues at [previous institution name]. During my [X] years there, I have helped to secure a total of $[X] of funding, for [X] studies total, [X] of which was published in [publication name, issue, date]. We found that [describe your findings] which allowed us to develop [a further study/a solution to a problem].
Expert Hint: How to determine what to focus on? Reach out to the faculty through an informational interview, and you’ll be much more certain on what angle to take.
5. Show Them Why It’s Them
Academics can be picky, cliquey, and particular. You’re not applying to an institution you’re going to hate, or that won’t allow you to follow your research interests. You have spent the time researching and determining the best port to dock your ship to.
Make apparent the reason for why you chose them, and make them feel like they’re the only you’re applying to. College, department, faculty pages are full of important tidbits of information, and you must pick the ones you can relate to show that you can slot right into the machine.
Fill in the [blanks]:
Academic Cover Letter Sample: Third Paragraph
I am extremely excited to even be considered for this position at [target organization name], as I believe the [college’s/faculty’s/department’s] focus on [teaching/research/other] will allow me to pursue my ambitions of [teaching more than X students/doing your dream research/other]. I would be glad to bring my expertise in [securing funding/field of research/teaching] to [target institution name].
6. Request the Interview & Leave a Call To Action
By now, you should have made all the arguments you were going to make. You have built a logical argument, you may have even almost convinced them. What’s going to be missing for some is the final push.
So, how to sign off your cover letter?
If they have gotten this far, you have your foot in the door. Don’t push the door. Look down at your foot, then lock eyes with the opponent, grab the handle, and gently open the door. Request a call or an interview, underlining it with your strongest argument or achievement.
Sample Academic Cover Letter: Call to Action & Closing
Could we have a call or a meeting to discuss how my [your best, most relevant skill/their most important requirement][skills/experience] can help [target institution name] achieve [something important to this institution]?
[Digital copy of your handwritten signature]
[Your full name]
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Are you writing a specific kind of resume for education jobs? See our dedicated guides:
- Academic CV
- Art Teacher Resume
- Librarian Resume
- Preschool Teacher Resume
- Primary / Elementary Teacher Resume
- Research Assistant Resume
- Special Education Teacher Resume
- Substitute Teacher Resume
- Teacher (General) Resume
- Teaching Assistant Resume
- Supervisor Resume
When writing your cover letter for academic positions, make sure to:
- Format it properly: elegant font, even margins, spacing, a legible header with all the information.
- State the post you are hoping to take, and your credentials and tenure in this regard.
- Show exactly why, in detail, you are the best match for this position, by referencing your relevant activities and achievements.
- Show how this position is a natural progression for you to grow, teach more people, and expand the body of knowledge.
- Sign off and ask for an interview.
Do you have any more questions about writing a cover letter for academic jobs? Did you find our academic cover letter sample helpful? Leave us a comment, I’ll be more than happy to hear from you!