This section of our Academic Jobs In Biological Sciences series of job profiles focuses on one of the more senior-level management positions in a university – Head of Department (HoD) in Biology.
The primary role of a HoD is to provide strategic leadership of the department, shaping the direction of research and teaching, as well as managing staff. If you’re a senior-level biological sciences academic, you might be considering a change of direction into a higher education management role.
What does the Head of a Biology Department do?
Reporting to the Dean of a faculty or school of biological or life sciences, the HoD leads, manages and develops the research and teaching activities of the biology department.
- Leading the research strategy of the biology department.
- Managing and developing staff and research teams/activities.
- Ensuring success in teaching and learning, business and enterprise and global and academic partnerships.
- Curriculum and module design.
- Financial and resource management.
- Identifying opportunities for innovation.
- Liaising with the university’s senior leadership team.
- Presenting at conferences and events worldwide.
- Hiring new professors and lecturers.
- Conducting and disseminating research within a biology specialism.
- Carrying out some teaching and mentoring duties.
How to Become a Biology Head of Department
Head of Department is a prestigious position, arrived at after a long career in academia. Candidates would need to have a wealth of experience and knowledge in their biology specialism and the qualities required to manage and develop a team of academic and professional services staff. To become a Biology HoD, the following qualifications and experience would be required:
- A PhD in biology or related biosciences area.
- A recognised teaching qualification and senior or principal Fellowship with Advance HE.
Experience, knowledge and skills
Significant teaching and research experience is essential for those aspiring to an HoD role – most HoDs are senior academics who also hold a professorship. You would also be expected to demonstrate a strong track record in leadership and management and be able to set out a progressive vision for the department.
One of the most important qualities of a HoD is the ability to provide inspiring and relevant scientific education to students at all levels. Employers would want to hear about how you would organise and innovate curricula and how you would enhance the teaching reputation of the department.
What’s the pay?
Salaries for HoDs are rarely disclosed in job adverts and most are agreed by negotiation. However, a Biology HoD can expect a starting salary in the range of £56,024 to £63,989 p.a., depending on current academic rank, research profile and experience.
What can it lead to?
Head of Department is already a high-ranking position, and many HoDs choose to remain in the role for the rest of their careers. However, the next step would be to either move up to a Deanship or transfer to other senior roles in the university’s senior management team. Alternatively, a HoD may decide to return to a professorship for the remainder of their academic career.
Where can I find jobs?
Owing to the level of responsibility and need for long-term stability, HoD opportunities tend to be offered on a permanent basis. Therefore, the availability of this level of senior management role in a university tends to be lower. Most HoDs are promoted to the role within their institutions, although you will also find HoD jobs advertised worldwide.
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