Careers Service

Experience you need

Information and advice on the range of experience you will need if you wish to pursue an academic career.

There is no one guaranteed path to a successful academic career. If you talk to lecturers and researchers employed in your School you will hear about the wide range of different experience they gathered to get to their current position.

However, many academic staff will agree that the experience outlined below can be helpful if you wish to pursue an academic career:

Improve your research profile

  • Do good research and publish! Have a strategy for publishing – which journals or publisher may be interested? Ask for advice from your supervisor or more experienced colleagues.
  • Go to, and present at, conferences to get yourself and your research known. Find out what the hot topics in your field are, talk to other researchers to gain ideas for future research and collaborations, find out who may be recruiting in the future.

Gain teaching experience

  • Get some teaching experience if possible - tutoring, demonstrating or lecturing. Don't wait to be asked; if appropriate, offer to teach on courses in your department.
  • Look beyond your department; what courses are offered at your institution that you could teach on?
  • If opportunities are limited you could enquire about developing a course for the Office of Lifelong Learning.

Understand the wider work of an academic

  • Be active in your department and even the wider institution. Sitting on and making a contribution to university committees can help you understand the politics and priorities of your institution and you may meet people who sit on selection committees, which can be useful if you want to stay at the same institution.

Extend your network

  • Working and/or collaborating internationally is often viewed positively. This may be difficult to do during your PhD but something to consider in your early research career.

Impact / public engagement

  • Think about the impact of your research as this is becoming more important. Are there people or organisations outside academia who may be interested in your research?
  • Explore opportunities for public engagement through the Beltane Public Engagement Network and ask your supervisor for advice on what's appropriate.

You can find out more about the views of UK academic staff in the AGCAS survey "Getting the first lecturing job":

What else can help you prepare for an academic career?

Develop a research strategy

  • Start thinking about possibilities for funding your research after your PhD. Which funding bodies typically fund in your research area? What are their priorities for the future? Can you ‘shape’ your future research plans to have a better chance of funding success? Edinburgh Innovations run regular seminars on funding, provide access to searchable databases of funding, and offer advice and support on making applications.
  • Edinburgh Innovations provides access to searchable databases of funding, and offer advice and support on making applications.

Know your sector

  • Read Times Higher Education and other relevant publications to pick up news on higher education policy, funding bodies and their priorities, which institutions may have a recruitment drive, the Research Excellence Framework and more.

Understand recruitment practices

  • Look at job vacancies well before you are due to complete your PhD. What kind of experience do employers want? This may help you decide where to focus your efforts when gaining experience and how to manage your time.

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