How to make it as a university lecturer

Fast Track
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The Independent Online

Job description (what it says): Keeping up-to-date with and furthering knowledge in your subject.The job encompasses three main areas: research, teaching and administration.

Job description (what it says): Keeping up-to-date with and furthering knowledge in your subject.The job encompasses three main areas: research, teaching and administration.

Job description (what it means): In practice, the three areas of your job are likely to fight for attention. Knowing your career development depends on it, you will have an ongoing battle to free up time for research. Five-yearly Research Assessment Exercises will pile on the pressure as your boss gets anxious about the department's star rating (0-5) and the future funding dependent on it. Your term-times are likely to be consumed by teaching, and assessing students can be a Herculean task as groups of up to 150 hand in their work simultaneously. And while you juggle teaching and research, your admin will be piling up in the corner.

Qualifications: A higher degree is no guarantee of entry. Many people who successfully complete their doctorate never manage to get a job in academia, and have to find an alternative career.

Way in: While you're doing your PhD, you may get the opportunity to work as a Graduate Teaching Assistant. You'll probably know by this stage whether you can handle research and admin, but this is a good way to find out if you like teaching.

Starting salary: The starting salary for a "Grade A" lecturer is c£18,700, although if you do get promoted things improve with the top end of the Senior Lecturer scale around £36,000.

Perks: You get paid to do something you find interesting and you have a lot of freedom to decide what to teach and research without the strict curriculum limitations that exist in schools.

Drawbacks: Supporting a family could be difficult as there isn't much job security with many people on temporary contracts, and you will need to be able to move to wherever the jobs are.

More information: Contact the university you're interested in directly, or try the DFEE for general policy information (0870 0012345).

Icons: Germaine Greer, Colin Blakemore

Need not apply: The intellectually insecure and those who can't communicate their enthusiasm for their subject.

Career prospects: Career progression to Senior Lecturer and Professor is not automatic, and very few people make it to the higher echelons.

Do say in interview: "I'm committed to furthering knowledge in my subject and sharing it with others."

Don't say: "I hate students."

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