There are numerous routes to get into the field of academia. In the following article, I will share with you some invaluable insights into the traditional way of how to become a lecturer.
If you wanted to become a lecturer fifty years ago, a post-graduate qualification was not necessary. A few decades later, many people find it impossible to get a permanent lectureship without having completed a PhD. The qualifications that you need are a good bachelor’s degree (2.1 or above), possibly a masters, and a PhD in the relevant field. Although you do not need a separate teaching qualification, you could be offered the opportunity to complete one while studying for your PhD or in the first year of working as a lecturer.
There are three main aspects to being a lecturer: teaching, research and administration. Different institutions prioritise research and teaching differently, and you need to find out which aspect is most important for the particular job you are interested in. As a general rule for the UK, Russell Group universities prioritise research whereas post-1992 institutions place more emphasis on teaching.
While completing your PhD, you could be offered the chance to do some teaching in your department. It is wise to take any teaching work even if it might seem like a distraction from your doctorate studies. Make sure that you take advantage of teaching opportunities to build up your skills. Without this experience you could find it most challenging to secure a permanent lectureship after your PhD.
You might lead seminars, tutorials and occasionally contribute towards labs and lectures. You could be asked to mark essays and help marking exam scripts. Many PhD students teach courses designed by others and do not get involved in curriculum development. If you are offered the opportunity to be involved in curriculum design, do seize it! It could really make you stand out from the crowd. Although a few universities discourage teaching assignments, the majority have realised that future academics need to develop their teaching portfolio early on.
Most people take three to four years to complete a full-time PhD qualification which forms the basis of their research experience. After finishing their doctorate degree, they turn to having it published either as a book or a series of articles.
Publishing is an essential step on the path to becoming a lecturer. Although you may not have published a great deal before qualifying, you need to build up your portfolio once your PhD is completed. Giving papers at conferences, workshops and lectures could provide you with excellent opportunities to communicate your ideas to colleagues. Employers will be keen to see that you can disseminate your research and this is one of the best ways of proving that.
After the PhD
Some scholars get a permanent full-time job quickly after finishing their PhD whilst others take up a range of temporary positions. They might work on an hourly paid or part-time basis, commute a long way or work at several institutions simultaneously. Rest assured, the increased diversity of your experience will reflect positively on your CV. Try your best to maintain focus and dedication for your publishing (even if it may be financially challenging at times to provide for this part of academic life).
Your PhD supervisor, colleagues and friends in academia could be invaluable in passing on vacancies via word of mouth. This could be especially useful when a department is looking for a temporary member of staff. Initially the search for a suitable candidate is done by members of the department asking contacts whether they know anyone who would be interested. Only later would the position be advertised more formally. For permanent positions, institutions have to advertise publicly even if they have an internal candidate in consideration for the job.
Jobs.ac.uk is a fantastic platform to find lecturing jobs. You might be surprised to learn that they advertise over 75,000 jobs a year in all of the major universities in the UK as well as internationally. There are other articles in this Career Development section that deal with issues such as academic CV building and how to maximise your chances of getting these jobs.
Academia is highly competitive with the most prestigious jobs attracting hundreds of applicants from across the globe. However, with persistence and dedication, one of those jobs could be yours.