Many doctoral and post-doctoral researchers would say that an academic (lecturing) career is where they see their future lying. However, there is a huge discrepancy between the numbers of researchers and the numbers of lecturing posts available. So, to maximise your chances you need to become aware, very early on in your research career, of what makes a successful academic. Here are some ways to find out more about what's involved in and required for an academic post:
- talk to lecturers in your department about what they do and how they got to a permanent academic post, and look at their CVs.
- find job adverts for lectureships in your discipline and look carefully at the job description and person specification.
- Manchester University have written a website dedicated to helping you find out more about what an academic career involves.
- take the online module to help you find out more about academic careers
All lecturing jobs are split between research, teaching and administration, to varying extents depending on whether you are in a research- or teaching-intensive University. (In some cases, it may be possible to obtain a post that only involves teaching, sometimes called a teaching fellowship, or a research-only post). Research, teaching and administration are therefore the key areas in which you will need to take action:
- You have to know what you want to research - in other words, find your niche. You need to develop ideas for independent projects and investigate ways to get them funded.
- Showing that you have the potential to attract and secure independent research funding is a key criteria for obtaining a permanent academic post. You can provide this evidence in a number of ways, from applying for small research and travel grants through applying to be a Co-Investigator on a project. The rules around whether doctoral and postdoctoral researchers are eligible to apply for certain types of grants, fellowships and funding varies widely across disciplines and across funders. If you have an idea for generating research funding, you should talk to you current PI and others in your department about your plans and potential funding sources. The Research Development and Support Office has information and advice on applying for funding, including a list of funders. See also the vacancies section for possible funding sources. The Researcher Development Unit runs a course on writing grant applications.
- Publish! A good publication record is vital. Think 'where' as well as 'what' - publications in high-quality journals will carry more weight with academic recruiters.
- Understand how the REF works
- Take every opportunity to present your research at conferences and seminars - this will build your reputation and develop your networks
- You need to demonstrate that you can engage students with your teaching, and work effectively with both them and colleagues in your department. Especially in the early stages of your career, you may be required to teach subjects outside of your research area, so think about whether you are prepared for this
- Get some teaching experience . Start with practicals and tutorials, and move up to seminars and lectures if possible
- Supervise final year students, and postgraduates if you can
- Take any teaching/learning courses your institution offers
- Document all of this (even the informal experience)
- Go to as many departmental or faculty meetings as you are entitled to
- Keep up to date with current University trends
- Do the article reviews you get sent - it gets your name known
- Postgraduates - consider getting involved with your Faculty Staff-Student Liaison Commitee
Routes in to academic careers vary according to discipline, so talk to academics in your department to find out which route is most common/advisable in your subject area. In Science and Engineering the most common route is through at least one or two postdoctoral research positions, possibly followed by an independant fellowship, before progressing to a lectureship. In Social Sciences, while there is an increasing number of postdoctoral research positions in some disciplines, it is also common to work as a teaching fellow or temporary lecturer before applying for permanent lectureships. You'll need to make sure you are developing your publication record, which can be challenging when writing lectures and designing courses for the first time.