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The University of Southampton
Careers and Employability Service

Careers in academia

Higher Education (HE) is a popular employment sector for doctoral graduates and as such one of the most competitive to get in to.

Academic Careers
Academic Careers

The postgraduate research programme is essentially designed to equip you for an academic career and can be viewed as a stepping stone toward one. It would not be surprising if your programme has set your job search towards an academic career in a lecturing and/or research position within a university. However, you may want to look beyond the obvious research and lecturing jobs. As academia modernises many opportunities and potentially fulfilling careers could be found within academic administration, staff training and development, careers support, student recruitment, knowledge transfer, research governance and research enterprise as well as traditional lecturing positions.


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An academic career:

  • Lecturing can involve high levels of administration and it's not all about teaching.
  • The remuneration is not great. For example the lecturer minimum at the University of Southampton is £28,695 (01/08/2014).
  • Many posts are offered on fixed-term contracts due to funding provisions. Permanent post are highly competitive. This could be an important factor if you're concerned about job security.
  • Academia is highly competitive. Motivation, determination and commitment to your field of study are essential qualities.

 However an academic career can offer:

  • A flexible, dynamic and generally international work environment
  • Scope for personal development opportunities
  • The opportunity to undertake independent research

We would strongly recommend that you ask yourself the following questions to assess your motivations and commitment to a career in academia:

  • Do you have a continuing passion for your subject that would make you want to get out of bed everyday to research and/or teach it?
  • Do you have the patience and skills necessary to be able to effectively pass on your knowledge to others?
  • Can you work on your own initiative?
  • Are you sufficiently dedicated to your personal development to pursue career progression within the academic field?
  • Are you prepared to complete multiple funding applications and potentially to live on contractual positions for a number of years?
  • Are you staying in academia because it is a familiar environment?

Explore the University of Southampton resources for research staff.

The Careers & Employability Service has books and e-books available for loan which you may find useful for planning a career in academia. Please see our Careers Library and e-books webpages for more information.

The University of Manchester host a website on academic careers which can help you to understand if this career route is right for you and provides top tips for getting into the sector.

The RCUK host a series of career case studies in a series called "Careers in Research"and we also host a number of alumni profiles of doctoral graduates who have pursued careers in HE which can be viewed on our Alumni Profiles webpage.

You may also find this Guardian article of interest:

Freelance, part-time or fixed-term: is this the future of academic careers? (Guardian Higher Education Network, 11th July 2012) .

Top Tips from Nobel Laureates:

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