An academic career

Many people start their PhD thinking that they will continue with a career in academia, whereas in fact only a relatively small proportion of PhD graduates end up in long-term academic careers. Academia is a competitive field, as there are many more doctoral graduates than there are jobs. However, academic positions are available if you are willing to compete for them.

Opportunities available

The types of opportunities available to you will depend on your discipline. In science and engineering the first step is usually to find a postdoctoral research position. Researchers often have to complete one or more 'postdocs' before they are ready to apply for a permanent lectureship. In the arts, humanities and social sciences there are fewer research posts and doctoral graduates will often find themselves competing directly for lectureships. 

The skills required

In general, academic institutions will be looking at your ability to produce, manage and publish research, to supervise, and to teach. However, institutions vary in their focus, with some being research-led while others concentrate more on teaching. When choosing a position you should consider what percentage of your time you want to spend on research, teaching and administration. 

It would also be a good idea to discuss your plans with your supervisor or other academics, as they will be able to give you advice and information that you may not find elsewhere. Whatever your chosen career path, you should think about developing relevant skills, gaining experience, and gathering evidence as early as possible in your PhD programme. 

Training courses to help you develop some of the key skills required for an academic career are available from the Graduate School.

Applying for academic jobs

If you are at the stage where you are making applications for academic jobs, we've put together some advice for you on putting together an academic CV and on writing an academic cover letter.


'Leading Academics' is a series of events run by the University Graduate School (in association with Careers Network) designed to equip you with skills, information and awareness to help you plan an academic career and apply for academic jobs. Take a look at the next Leading Academics events coming up soon.

Further resources

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