Have you been thinking about applying for university lecturer jobs? There are several ways to achieve lecturer experience. Our article takes you through some of the key steps and explains how you could achieve this.
How to be offered a lecturer job?
Although some universities have criteria for previous academic teaching experience, others are more lenient. They may consider individuals with training and coaching skills if they have sound professional experience in a related field.
If you are currently studying for a PhD, you might be able to shadow a lecturer and gain valuable knowledge. You could be involved in curriculum design, lead seminars and tutorials, or support assessments. This could help you to build on your teaching skills and boost your CV. As a PhD student, your main research experience is likely to be your master’s or PhD thesis. Do take advantage of opportunities to present at events such as seminars, workshops, or conferences. As a student, you could benefit from networking and developing contacts within academia. Throughout your doctoral studies, you will be able to take part in conferences and possibly create collaborations with other researchers. It is essential that you regularly attend events and introduce yourself to others in your field.
If you are considering a career change, you could take up guest lecturing positions. This would allow you to experience what it may be like to work as a lecturer and help you decide if this is the right career direction for you. Some universities may prefer individuals with strong industry experience. However, you might want to think about completing a teaching qualification such as a postgraduate teaching course in higher education if you are considering stepping into lecturing.
Perhaps the easiest way to get started is to work as an associate lecturer, taking up teaching and marking assignments. For most associate positions, you will need to have a master’s degree or a doctoral-level qualification (e.g. PhD, EngD, DPhil, DBA etc). This demonstrates that you can carry out high-quality research and communicate your findings in an academic environment. You might find that there are some areas such as architecture, law and education where fewer staff are expected to have a doctoral degree.
Some associate positions are available as freelance opportunities while others could be on a contractual basis. Being an associate could help you get your foot in the door and contribute to a full-time contract.
Some universities allow associates to take any of their learning and development courses without any cost, give full access to their library, and provide mentoring. As an associate, you could complete a postgraduate teaching course in higher education which will help you to further develop your skills. In addition to teaching and marking, you might get involved in module leadership, coaching, or developing courses. There are wonderful opportunities if you would like to develop your teaching career.
Did you know that universities like to take on associates as permanent lecturers if they consistently deliver high-quality work? It is wise to take part in departmental meetings or conferences if you receive an invitation. You will be able to introduce yourself to other academics and learn about developments and changes happening within the wider university.
Lecturers are employed by the university, and they support students with their academic studies. To receive a full-time lecturer position, most universities would ask for a doctoral degree and previous university teaching experience in a relevant field. Lecturers are involved in the following responsibilities:
- Delivering lectures and seminars
- Providing 1-2-1 supervision to students
- Marking students’ coursework, projects, and exams
- Mentoring students and providing academic advice
- Developing academic courses
- Completing research and attending conferences
- Contributing to research funding bids
- Managing the work of other colleagues
As you advance in your career, you could be promoted to a senior level and be involved in strategic decision-making. Your work might cover research or teaching, although some employers may ask you to contribute in both areas. Some of the criteria for working at this level may include a track record of publishing internationally and having extensive teaching experience at both under and postgraduate levels.
How to progress my career?
Once you have started working as a lecturer, you should complete a formal postgraduate teaching and learning qualification (if you have not already completed one). Many universities offer postgraduate certificate courses which cover theories of learning as well as the practical aspects of teaching face-to-face and virtually.
It is a good idea to apply for a professional membership in The Higher Education Academy (HEA). You could also explore the option of studying for a Masters in Higher Education which could help you further develop your academic career.
What are some of the soft skills I will need?
Resilience: Having resilience means being able to cope with whatever life throws at you. Although resilient people do experience difficult emotions, they can bounce back quickly from setbacks. As a lecturer, you might have difficult students in your class, and they might challenge your teaching approach. You might need to meet competing deadlines and face pressures to align with targets.
Continuous learning: Lecturers need to be genuinely interested in their chosen field and seek to continuously broaden their skills via training courses, books, online resources and sharing knowledge with colleagues. You need to be committed to making a positive difference to the lives of young people.
Critical thinking: Critical thinking is an essential skill in the workplace. It means not taking things at face value. Critical thinkers can look at things from multiple angles and ask searching questions. It does not simply mean highlighting the negatives, the threats, and the challenges. It is about being able to notice the advantages and the disadvantages of approaches and making an objective judgment based on our observations.
Organisation and time management: Organisation is an essential skill for people working in education. You will most probably need to balance a busy schedule with lecturing, marking, writing papers, researching and attending conferences.