Teaching fellow and research fellow positions can be a natural next step once postgraduate studies are finished.
Are you currently completing your postgraduate studies and wondering which direction to take your career? Are you perhaps planning to transition from industry to academia and you are not sure what your career options may be?
Working in the Higher Education sector could give you opportunities to make a genuine difference to others. As a teaching fellow, you could inspire young adults and encourage them to develop a deeper understanding of their selected field. You could teach students from a wide range of geographical and cultural backgrounds and help them develop their career prospects through academic study. As a research fellow, you could contribute towards new research advancements. Engaging in research might allow you to solve complex global issues, deepen your interest in your chosen area, and be part of an academic community.
Organisations within the Higher Education (HE) sector often advertise for teaching and research fellows. Before you consider applying for these roles, it might be helpful to clarify the key differences between the above two positions. The below information is for general guidance only. Some universities may have different expectations and requirements of teaching and research fellows.
Who is a teaching fellow?
If you work as a teaching fellow, you normally deliver academic teaching to under and/ or postgraduate students. You would also design academic courses and manage a range of administrative duties. You may not necessarily be involved in research activities. You would teach small groups, supervise individuals and deliver lectures to a large audience of students. You would also carry out academic marking and provide students with structured and focused feedback on how to improve their writing skills and critical thinking.
What qualifications do you need?
Universities generally require applicants to have a PhD/DPhil in a suitable area or be close to completing one. Alternatively, employers may also welcome applicants with a master’s degree in a related field, coupled with significant experience in industry. You would ideally need some previous teaching experience in the Higher Education sector, delivering teaching to under and/ or postgraduate students. Some jobs are advertised on a full-time, part-time, fixed-term, or permanent basis.
What skills do you need?
You would have strong IT skills and be able to use online platforms and databases. Many universities use Turnitin to check students’ work for possible plagiarism. Moodle is a platform that is frequently used for delivering teaching and managing assessments. If you are asked to deliver online teaching, you would frequently use virtual learning environments such as Blackboard.
You would have strong knowledge of your subject area and the ability to inspire your students. Apart from delivering teaching sessions, you would also mark formative and summative assignments. As marking needs to be completed by set deadlines, you would need to demonstrate strong time management skills. Attention to detail is key as you would need to give bespoke feedback to your students on how they can improve their work. Strong communication skills are essential. You will be teaching small and large groups of students and explaining complex concepts to them using simple language. When supervising individuals, you might need to encourage and motivate them if they encounter any setbacks.
How to find teaching fellow jobs?
A number of UK universities employ academics known as teaching fellows. These include: the University of Oxford, the University of Birmingham, the University of Edinburgh, University College London etc. You may wish to visit the jobs.ac.uk platform at https://www.jobs.ac.uk/categories/teaching-fellow-jobs in order to learn about recent vacancies.
Who is a research fellow?
If you work as a research fellow, you would primarily be involved in performing research activities. Apart from the Higher Education sector, research fellows may work in scientific laboratories and government agencies. In this role, your whole professional time would be dedicated to research. You would develop research objectives and proposals, give presentations at conferences and deliver research projects. You would take on a wide range of tasks related to research. You would collect research data, complete scientific experimentation, conduct literature reviews, analyse and interpret research findings, prepare and present reports for publications and supervise doctorate students etc. Although you may have little involvement in teaching (if any), you may be asked to offer individual supervision to postgraduate students.
What qualifications do you need?
Most universities require applicants to have a PhD/DPhil degree or be close to completing one. For some positions, you would be asked to show evidence of published research in high-quality peer-reviewed journals. Research fellow positions may be offered on a full-time, part-time basis or flexible working basis. You may have a permanent or a fixed-term contract.
What skills do you need?
You would be genuinely interested in your chosen field and enjoy examining data. Writing skills are important as you will be writing for publications, research proposals, and funding applications. To thrive in this role, you would be a strongly organised and detail-oriented person. At times, you might be working under pressure to meet set deadlines and to achieve milestone targets.
The most skilled fellows have strong analytical and critical thinking skills. They are involved in collecting, analysing, and interpreting data, and examining it from different angles. From time to time, they might provide individual coaching and mentoring to colleagues. As a research fellow, you would be confident in giving presentations and talking about your research to both small and large audiences. When taking part in conferences, you would network with other academics and build connections with researchers working for other universities. Some of the best academic researchers are excellent communicators. They are able to use plain language when talking about their research and their enthusiasm is contagious.
How to find research fellow jobs?
A number of UK universities employ research fellows. These include: the University of St Andrews, the University of Warwick, the University of Edinburgh, University College London, the University of Cambridge etc. You may wish to visit the jobs.ac.uk platform at https://www.jobs.ac.uk/categories/research-fellow in order to learn about recent vacancies.
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