Is it right for you?
You’ll already know that the academic career route is a competitive one. There are more people doing PhDs than there are research and lectureship positions available.
You have to be committed, focused, and in some cases maybe a bit lucky, to be successful. It’s important to know what is involved in an academic career to be sure you are embarking on the right road.
There is no definite answer to whether or not an academic career is right for you. You have to think not only about what you enjoy doing but also about the type of opportunities that will be available when you graduate and in the future. It can be useful to start asking - and answering - some of the questions below to help you to decide if this is the career path you wish to pursue.
- Are you passionate about your research?
- Do you want the freedom to pursue your own research interests? Is this realistic in light of current funding priorities?
- Do you want to teach or just do research?
- What are the possibilities for research-only roles in your subject area?
- What do you know about the challenges of balancing teaching, research and other academic commitments?
- Where can you do research in your subject area? Is it limited or available in a large number of institutions?
- What about the lifestyle? Are you attracted to the flexibility often possible with working hours and location? What does this actually mean for home life?
- How mobile are you? Are there opportunities in geographical areas where you’d be prepared to live?
- Is some form of stability / job security important to you early on in your career or would you enjoy the challenge of a new role every few years?
- Are you good at networking and enjoy telling people about your research?
If you find it difficult to answer some of these questions ask for help.
- More senior colleagues will be able to share their experiences and knowledge of the academic work environment and job market.
- Careers consultants will be happy to help you explore what it is you want from a career, and to answer questions about the academic job market.
- You could attend the ‘Planning an academic career’ workshop which is offered twice a year to PhD students on a College wide basis by the Careers Service.
- The University of Manchester has developed an ‘academic career’ website which you may find useful.