An Associate lecturer provides teaching at universities without being on a permanent contract. As an associate lecturer, you would typically deliver a few hours of work weekly such as marking, delivering seminars or lecturing to larger classes. It comes with some unparalleled opportunities and complex challenges.
In the following article, I have selected some of the pros and cons of being an associate lecturer. Although each university has different ways of managing associate lecturers, the following will offer some valuable insights and help you decide if this could be the right career option for you.
Have you ever thought about dipping your toe into academic teaching and sharing your industry experience? Although some universities have a criterion for previous academic teaching experience, others are more lenient. They may consider individuals with training and coaching experience if they have sound professional experience in a related field.
Rob is an experienced Project Manager working for a university in the South of England. Being able to teach project management classes a couple of hours each week helps him expand his professional skills. Without making a risky career change, he is able to see for himself if teaching might be a feasible career change in the future.
Lisa is currently completing her doctorate studies in Environmental Studies. Whilst she is drawn to stepping into industry after completing her PhD, she is also attracted to the world of teaching. As Lisa takes on a couple of seminars, she is able to try out her teaching skills and supplement her income.
An Associate Lecturer is either formally employed by the university or works freelance. 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. These will provide you with some excellent opportunities to introduce yourself to other academics.
One of the blessings of being an associate is the lack of involvement in organisational politics. You will be working closely together with a senior lecturer who would provide you with most of the teaching materials and give you guidance on practices. Most probably, you would not even be aware of the organisational politics in the background.
Associates often do not learn their teaching arrangements until a few weeks before the start of the academic semesters. When you do not know in advance when you will be teaching, it is challenging to plan other commitments. Some universities let their associates choose which subjects they teach and when, whilst others are less flexible in this respect. Although there could be opportunities for additional marking, teaching assignments can also be withdrawn at short notice before the start of the course. Most universities normally run two or three semesters in each academic year and you would normally be teaching within these periods only. It is unlikely that you will receive any teaching opportunities outside of the semesters (e.g. in the summer months).
To manage financial stability associates either work in a full-time job or they take on multiple freelance projects working for a range of organisations.
Lack of network
Associates often need to work hard to tap into a network and establish long-lasting professional connections with other academics. As an associate, you may be considered as an outsider who only comes into the campus a couple of times a week. Because of the few hours you will be teaching, you could be seen as less committed than other part-time staff. You might bump into other associates before class or at workshops, however, developing professional bonds can be a real challenge. If your university offers mentoring, coffee networking meetings or special events for associates, make sure that you do go along to these.
Teaching within higher education can give you the opportunity to make a real difference in the lives of young adults, to encourage and inspire them, and help them succeed in the future. You could gain invaluable teaching experience and build the palette of your professional skills. Best of luck!