Are you considering an academic career? It can be difficult to know where to start, so in this blog post our Careers Consultant, Becky Clark, gives her top tips on how to be successful in academia.
Whether you are at undergraduate, Masters or doctoral (see definition below)* level you may be considering an academic career. If you are passionate about your subject, like, and are good at, research, love being within a university and want to share your knowledge with university students then an academic career may be for you.
Some academics focus primarily on teaching, some focus solely on research. Many roles combine both. Whatever you are aiming for, here are some top tips for getting there:
- You will need a good first degree with a 2:1 or 1st, usually a Masters and then a doctoral level qualification – a PhD, EngD, DPhil, DBA etc. For certain subjects though, professional experience may be enough.
- A doctorate is a very different kind of study from a first degree and a Masters degree so you may want to find out more before committing to this. See if you can talk to a present research student in your faculty or research area.
- You may then need to take a series of temporary contracts after your doctorate, ‘post docs’, before you get a permanent post.
- Find out what academics do from your lecturers /Tutors/senior academics.
- Get research experience whenever possible.
- Seek advice on whether you have the academic/research potential from your dissertation/project supervisor.
- Identify what area of research you would like to do and always be alert to the next stage in that research.
- Assess whether you have the motivation, the skills, drive and determination to be successful, find out here.
If you are a research student already (doing a doctorate) these are the other things to be doing to increase your chances of progressing in academia.
- Get published – seek advice from senior colleagues on which publications and how to go about getting published.
- Get teaching/demonstrating/mentoring /tutoring experience.
- Look at current job specs to find out what the requirements are and where your gaps are.
- Develop drive and determination to cope with knock backs.
- Raise your profile through networking at Conferences, specialist professional networks and on line networking sites like: Academia, Mendeley, ResearchGate and LinkedIn.
- Network with those academics, in this country and the rest of the world, working in your field and with an interest in the next stage of your research (see above for on line networking ideas).
- Show you can apply for, and get, funding. This includes travel grants, as well as funding for conferences and events. You could also get involved in parts of larger bids by your PI.
- Be alert and pro-active in seeking help and opportunities; if nothing else, seek the advice of the senior colleagues you work alongside.
- Take advantage of the many opportunities for training and development for researchers in your University.
- An excellent, comprehensive resource to explore this area further from Manchester University.
- Vitae information for research careers
- Prospects job descriptions: Life Sciences Researcher, Physical Sciences Researcher, Maths Researcher, Medical Researcher, Social Researcher, Higher Education Researcher.
*What distinguishes a doctorate from other academic work, is research. The period of study is typically 3 to 4 years full time (it can be done on a part-time basis). You have a supervisor/s to help guide you but you take the initiative and through your PhD must demonstrate your ability to conduct credible, valuable research independently. The culmination of your PhD, and in order to achieve your doctorate, is your thesis and viva. The thesis is the formal written presentation of your research, whilst in your viva you defend your research to members of faculty in an oral examination. Definition from findaphd.com.