Academic careers

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 created a website dedicated to helping you find out more about what an academic career involves
  • workshops on careers in academia for PhD students and research staff are run as part of the Researcher Development Programme
  • the Vitae website has some sections dedicated to academic careers
  • the links and resources page has some blogs on life as an early-career academic
  • We post advice on applying for and working towards academic jobs on our blog.

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 an academic post that only involves teaching, sometimes called a teaching fellowship, or a research-only post - see the Manchester Academic Careers website for more information on these different pathways). 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, including applying for small research and travel grants. 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 Innovation Services have information and advice on applying for funding, including a list of funders. See also the vacancies section for possible funding sources.
  • 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'll need to demonstrate that you can engage students with your teaching, and work effectively with both them and colleagues in your department.
  • Get some teaching experience. Start with demonstrating and tutorials, and move up to seminars and lectures if possible.
  • Supervise final year students, and postgraduates if you can.
  • Take any training courses on teaching offered by the University.


  • 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 Committee.
  • Volunteer to help with University Open Days.

Routes and Pathways

Routes into 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. See also the Manchester Academic Careers website for more on academic pathways in various disciplines.