Careers and Employability Service
Postgraduate researchers

Academic careers

Male lecturer delivering to students


An academic career has three key components: research, teaching and administration. Typical tasks might include:

  • writing up research and publishing the findings
  • applying for research grants
  • teaching, marking and assessing work
  • analysing data and preparing reports
  • presenting work at conferences and seminars


A typical entry level role following completion of a research degree would be as a research or teaching fellow.


From PhD student to research fellow

Rebecca Dewey, Research Fellow, talks about the roles she has had since completing her PhD, how her career thinking has developed and she reflects on her perception of a post-doc researcher when she was a student and now.

Reflecting on my early academic career

Rebecca Dewey talks about her role as well as the best and worse parts of her job. Reflecting on her experience and situation, Rebecca offers advice to PhD students and postdocs that might find themselves in a similar situation. 


Developing experience outside research

Rebecca talks about how she has broadened her experience and skills through projects such as the Parliamentary Pairing Scheme, Athena Swan and the Media Fellowship.

She also talks about the advantages of undertaking these projects and her discussions with her PI.


Is an academic career right for you?

Questions for you

  • Why do I want to be an academic?
  • Have I got the right motivation - am I choosing to stay because I don’t know enough about the alternatives or because leaving would feel like failure?
  • What aspect of academia am I most attracted to – teaching or research? Or would I like to have a mixture of both in future roles? What are the potential opportunities for that in my specialism?
  • Do I want to work internationally?

Top tips for developing an academic career

The following activities will increase your chances of developing a successful academic career.

  • Get published
  • Gain some project management experience
  • Take on teaching responsibilities
  • Increase your involvement in funding/budgeting issues and familiarise yourself with quality assessment procedures
  • Take steps to better understand the broader issues affecting Higher Education
  • Network with colleagues/peers outside your institution
  • Work with people who have a good reputation

Explore more...



Careers and Employability Service

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