A career in academia

A career in academia is likely to involve getting a post-doc position as a Research Assistant or Associate for a few years first, then moving up to a lectureship and eventually, becoming a Professor.

Find out more about the sector

There is a lot of information out there about working in academia. These sites provide information on what being an academic involves:

The currency in academia

The Research Excellence Framework (REF) was introduced to all UK universities in 2014. It is a system for assessing the quality of research in UK higher education institutions (HEIs) and is directly linked to the allocation of research funding. The REF means that academics producing high quality publications are likely to look more attractive to new departments. If you haven’t heard of the REF, it’s worth taking time to understand it - it will be very important if you want to pursue a career in academia. Jobs.ac.uk provide a useful overview.

Publications

Publications are an important part of working in academia. They demonstrate to prospective employers that you can write well, that your research is rigorous, relevant and can pass peer review. They also prove that you’re serious about building an academic career. Publications include papers in journals, book chapters and short interest pieces in publications such as The Conversation. Vitae have advice about publishing your research (membership required).

Engagement and impact

Increasing importance is being placed on the ‘impact’ of academic research. It is essential to demonstrate  how research can be used by other bodies including in policy, by the public, in education or by communities. Vitae has a lot of useful information on engagement and impact. Being able to talk about the impact of your research, for example, what difference it has made, is likely to come up in job interviews for academic posts.

Research grants

Applying for funding grants is a key part of academic work. These require academics to ‘pitch’ their research to funders to secure grants. Funding bids require you to breakdown the research in terms of time, resource, money, potential impact, relevance etc. Getting good at managing projects, writing to word counts, promoting the value of your research and collaborating with others will be useful for writing successful research grants. Vitae has a lot of information on research funding, how to write grant proposals and where to find sources of academic research funding (memberships required).

Euraxess is a British Council organised website for funding, but also job opportunities.

Teaching

There are often lots of opportunities to get teaching experiences as a postgraduate student. At Bristol, the Academic Staff Development team support PGRs who want to teach by providing mandatory Starting to Teach courses.

Further information on your development as a researcher

For top tips about how to enhance your employability, have a look at our top tips for postgraduate researchers. The Bristol Doctoral College (BDC) provides a focal point for doctoral training activity and researcher development across the University and in collaboration with our partner institutions. Alongside these, jobs.ac.uk has some great resources, including their career planning for PhD students ebook, a working in higher education information page and an academic job search.