Teach the Earth > Career Prep > Job Search > Dual Career Couples > Guertin-King Dual Career Profile

Drs. Laura Guertin and Dan King

Penn State Delaware County and Drexel University

Dan King and Laura Guertin. Photo courtesy of Laura and Dan.
Most of the information on this page is from an interview conducted by Carol Ormand on April 18, 2006.

Laura Guertin is an assistant professor of Earth Science at Penn State Delaware County. Dan King is an assistant professor in the Department of Chemistry at Drexel University, in Philadelphia. Having each pursued their separate careers for several years, they were able to find two tenure-track positions at nearby institutions.

The job search

As Dan and Laura finished their respective PhDs at the University of Miami, they weren't sure what their future would look like. They were willing to commute, temporarily. Laura was interested in a career in academia, but wanted to try it out for a couple of years to see whether she liked the balance of teaching and research. Dan, too, was considering an academic career but hadn't made up his mind about it. So, they each went their separate ways as opportunities arose.

Dan finished his degree (in atmospheric chemistry) first, and took a post-doc position in Colorado. When Laura completed her degree, she accepted a two-year position at Mary Washington College, in Virginia. This gave her the chance to assess how she'd like academia; she decided it was just the thing. Dan, meanwhile, was doing field-based research on ozone depletion. After her two-year stint at Mary Washington, Laura spent one year at the University of Colorado. But she wanted to live in the east, eventually. So, when a tenure-track position opened up at Penn State Delaware County, she applied (and was offered the job). Although she asked about employment opportunities for Dan in the area, and her future colleagues circulated his c.v. to nearby companies, that didn't produce any opportunities for him.

For the next year, Dan focused his job search efforts on the mid-Atlantic region, looking for something close to Laura. He was offered a temporary position at Drexel, which was only a half-hour commute (by train). This gave him the chance to check out an academic career, and also made him a known quantity at Drexel when a permanent job opened up later. Dan continued to apply for tenure-track positions, and when one became available at Drexel he was hired. From the beginning of their searches until they both had tenure-track positions in Pennsylvania, Laura and Dan spent a total of about five years living apart (though not continuously, they point out). Once they were settled in Pennsylvania together, they got married.

Challenges and benefits

Being a dual career academic couple presents a few challenges, beyond the years spent living in separate time zones. Finding time for each other is difficult, particularly during the semester. Of course, the flip side of this is that Dan and Laura each understand the demands of the other's career. Both are in tenure-track positions, although not at the same stage.

Another benefit of their similar careers is that they can share resources and ideas about teaching practices. They share an interest in science education, particularly in the use of technology in the classroom. So they can share journal subscriptions, and alert each other about relevant articles. And, of course, they talk with each other about what they're trying in their own classes and how it's working.

To make time for each other, Laura and Dan say, plan ahead. Since they are both sports fans, they look ahead at the Philadelphia Phillies schedule and buy tickets for a few games well in advance. Similarly, they have a season subscription—for Friday nights—to the Philly Pops concerts. Fridays are a good night for dates, they point out.

Advice for dual career couples

Laura and Dan offer the following advice for aspiring dual career academic couples:
  • Be patient. Don't expect the first year of applications will lead to two great positions in one place. Persistence pays off, but not always via the route you expect.
  • Starting at the same time can be rough—being the trailing spouse can be an advantage; your spouse can tell you what to expect, help with advice.
  • Be understanding of each other's stressful life and the evolving needs of both jobs/careers.