A PhD is seen by many as a solid foundation for progression into an academic career. Find out what the next steps are…
A typical day in an academic role can be quite varied. Daily tasks will also differ depending on what your job title is, but may include:
The Research Excellence Framework (REF), which has replaced the Research Assessment Exercise (RAE), is the new system to assess the quality of research in UK higher education institutions.
Because of assessments such as the REF, institutions are working in a more competitive environment and are under pressure to recruit the best possible staff. In turn, this increases the pressure on the academic staff that are given jobs, and many are set performance targets which they are expected to hit.
Typical salaries for academic positions include:
At a senior level, higher education lecturers can expect to earn upwards of £56,000, with some distinguished professors receiving six-figure salaries. The average salary for full-time professors in 2011/12 was £76,214 (Higher Education Statistics Agency, 2013).
In general terms, you can expect to earn more and enjoy a faster career progression if you have a PhD in comparison to lower qualifications. Three years after graduation, 72% of PhD graduates were earning more than £30,000, compared to 56% of Masters graduates and 22% of undergraduates (Vitae, 2013).
When pursuing an academic career it is difficult to gain a permanent job immediately after completing a PhD. The traditional route into an academic career for PhD graduates is to start work as either a research assistant or research fellow.
Universities will often make teaching opportunities available to PhD students. Some require you to complete training, which is often provided by the course. This will give you experience and develop your skills and reputation to help you obtain an academic career after graduation.
The University of Manchester highlights five key skills that they feel successful academics must possess, which are:
It is a good idea to try and get articles published in high-quality journals. Getting your work and name well-known and respected is an excellent way to make steps into an academic career. You can also boost your professional reputation by actively engaging with other academics in collaborative work and conferences.
Research assistant roles are not famed for job security and it is a competitive environment. Short-term contracts are usually offered, which can be anything from three months to three years in length. It is not uncommon for a research assistant or fellow to spend years working on temporary contracts before being offered a permanent role.
Universities will typically advertise these job vacancies on their websites. If you have a clear idea about where you want to work then contact an institution directly and let them know you are interested. Another source of opportunities is Jobs.ac.uk - Research Assistant Jobs .
When applying for an academic position it is beneficial to have previous teaching experience, even if it is only minimal. It is also important to provide clear evidence of your research and a plan of how you wish to develop this in the future. As with most jobs, try and get your application in as early as possible.
When applying for this type of job it is also important to produce a CV in a way that showcases your academic experience.
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