Risky research

Q. I am coming to the end of a PhD in social anthropology, where I researched the involvement of ethnic minorities in the health services. I have now succeeded in getting a job in another university as a research fellow working on a similar, but larger, project. I am worried that continuing to do academic research may impede my chances of getting a job in the NHS or elsewhere. Is this the case?

A. Given your current interests, it seems likely that you'll eventually be looking for jobs in policy areas, and, if this is the case, one round of postdoctoral research is unlikely to harm your prospects. Your new post allows you to work as an independent researcher, not a supervised student, and the skills you will develop should stand you in good stead - you will be able to demonstrate that you can plan and execute projects. You will also be publishing your work and, again, this will demonstrate your abilities as a researcher. But you should beware the research trap - many in this position concentrate on the work and publishing, and may find it hard to leave academia if they want to. Try to avoid this by taking an interest in some aspect of the administration of the department - all departments have committees, and volunteering to get involved is useful for you and your colleagues. Any knowledge of budgeting or grant application processes are valuable, for instance. This will give you a broader base from which to jump to your next position. And don't hide away - keep networking like mad with former colleagues and new contacts to ease the transition next time.

Getting back on course

Q. I work as a teaching assistant in a primary school. I have an English and drama degree and would like to train to teach adult literacy and numeracy. I don't want to do a postgraduate certificate in education (PGCE), as these are geared towards primary and secondary school teaching. All other courses for teaching adults seem to be aimed at giving those already in the field a recognised qualification and require applicants to be teaching already.

A. You may have got this impression since, if you train part time, you need to tie in the training with existing teaching hours. In some parts of the country where teachers are in short supply, employers might be willing to take on inexperienced staff and train them, but this may not be the case where you are living. You can take a full-time, one-year, pre-service course ahead of getting a job, and this year you will receive funding from your local education authority to enable you to do that. Next year the system will change and funding will be through top-up fees. The full-time study course is still called a PGCE, only it is geared towards the adult sector. In effect, you need a PGCE level 4 qualification (gained through full- or part-time study) or a City and Guilds qualification (gained through part-time study). Check the City and Guilds course you take is numbered 7407, which is a teaching qualification. You would choose either the literacy or numeracy subject specialism to study while training, then take the second subject specialism later. For information about courses, ring the Lifelong Learning helpline on 0207 936 5798 or check out its website on www.lifelonglearninguk.org.

Careers advisers: Anne-Marie Martin, director, The Careers Group, University of London.

Send your queries to Caroline Haydon at 'The Independent', Education Desk, Independent House, 191 Marsh Wall, London E14 9RS; or fax 020-7005 2143; or e-mail chaydon@blueyonder.co.uk