Exploring academic and other careers

academic_careersDid you know that an extra 1,000 professors were recruited by UK universities last year, an almost 6% increase from the previous academic year?  This was despite the fact that the number of academic staff remained roughly the same. [Source Higher Education Statistics Agency ].

So what does that mean for you?   This increase in jobs (possibly linked to the upcoming research excellence framework) has happened at a level likely to be a few years away for most people near to completing a PhD so it certainly doesn’t seem to be getting any easier to embark on an academic research career.  Unless you are having an amazingly successful PhD which will allow you to publish immediately, repeatedly and with high impact, then it is unlikely that one of these new roles would be your first step post-PhD.  We do have a lovely case study on our website of one of our PhD graduates who went from PhD to Professor in about 4 years but that is unusual and a real success story!

I certainly would never discourage anyone from following a career path that interests them.  Despite the fact that you often hear people saying ‘the careers adviser told me to…‘, we never tell anyone to do anything but instead offer advice and guidance to encourage students to make their own well-informed career decisions.  So it’s not to put you off pursuing an academic career that I use this blog to talk about a variety of career options, but simply because I want you to have enough information to make the right decision for you, and that for many of you will be an academic career.

Saying that, I’m going to start writing a series of ‘careers in…’ blog posts.  I’ll cover some careers that are closely linked to working as a researcher in higher education and others that are a bit further away.  That’s for another post but to whet your appetite I thought I’d just share with you a selection of jobs that were advertised over the last few months that could appeal to researchers thinking of making a slight career shift.  They all involve knowledge of research and the research environment.

  • Policy and Research Adviser, Save the Children – to carry out research to support Save the Children to achieve its aims and to develop policy.
  • REF Impact Writer, University of Glasgow – helping academic staff to gather evidence for and write submissions for the impact section of the research excellence framework.
  • Policy and Strategy Officer, Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council – assisting in development of BBSRC strategy, providing strategic advice to scientists on funding,  monitoring BBSRC investments.
  • Research Development Officer (EU Funding), University of Birmingham – to encourage and support academic staff to take part in research activities financially support by the EU, including liaising with the European Commission.

If you want to know more about any of these jobs to get a feeling of what is involved then just ask and I’ll post the details.  They are no longer live vacancies but give you an idea of what is possible.

You may also want to have a look at the section on our website on ‘what are your options?’ This gives you some information on what previous PhD graduates have done and covers planning an academic career.  But it also gives an overview of research opportunities outside higher education as well as ideas to explore completely new directions.

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