Academia involves researching and teaching in a higher education institution, usually a university. This sector is best suited to those who enjoy academic study, expanding the knowledge in their field, and expressing the outcomes of their research to others.

Typical jobs in this sector include:

  • postdoctoral roles, such as research fellow or research associate
  • lecturer
  • professor
  • reader
  • teaching fellow
  • research assistant.

Key skills that are useful in this sector include:

  • research skills, including being able to innovate and ask and answer new questions
  • the ability to present your research to both specialist and non-specialist audiences
  • managing different types of workloads, such as research and teaching duties
  • the ability to work independently for extended periods of time
  • resilience, especially in a competitive field.

For job profiles and detailed information on pursuing a career in this sector, see the Prospects website:

Academia profile

This page focuses on academic career pathways within the UK. Though certain countries have similar academic career pathways, in some areas there may be important differences to the information provided here. For more information see how academic career maps compare within Europe.


How to get a job in academia

In any academic position, you will be expected to:

  • publish results of your research
  • present at and organise conferences and seminars
  • mark coursework and teach students.

In addition, especially in permanent academic positions, you will need to:

  • perform administrative tasks within your academic School
  • help recruit other members of academic staff
  • supervise students
  • design modules and assessments
  • apply for funding.

For this reason, you should build your experience in these areas. During your PhD or other postdoctoral study, you should:

  • Attend conferences and seminars, especially those arranged by your own academic School or its staff. You can practise delivering papers by participating in postgraduate seminars within your School or in St Leonard’s Postgraduate College’s series of events.
  • Publish the results of your research, especially in peer-reviewed, high impact journals.
  • Join relevant professional or academic bodies.
  • Get involved in teaching and marking, whether in the form of seminars, tutorials, or lab demonstrations. For further advice, see support for research postgraduates who teach. Consider applying to tutor on CEED’s Academic Skills Project.
  • Participate in funding proposals: if your supervisor is putting together bids for funding, offer assistance if appropriate.
  • Offer to help with outreach and public engagement activities, either those arranged by your own academic School or the University in general.

For help with developing the skills to do this, see St Leonard’s Postgraduate College skills and training page. For further information on preparing for an academic career, see Vitae.


To get a career in academia, it is especially important that you talk with people who are in the sector already. In many subject areas, the key academics are a small group, and they may be able to help you find funding and job opportunities that are not advertised. Being connected with the right people may also help you publish your work, or even succeed in applications for funding.

Ideas to help you make contacts and connections:

  • Take part in the activities mentioned above, such as attending conferences.
  • Ask your supervisor for information on research groups you could make a speculative application to. 
  • Join, a professional social networking platform for academics and researchers.

For specific advice on networking in academia, see tips and tricks for academic networking (UACES) and five easy ways for PhD students to start networking (Academic Positions).

For further help with networking in general, see the make a connection pages.

Finding a job in academia

Check out our job listings for vacancies or see the resources below for jobs in academia.

Find jobs (Careers Centre)

Jobs in the UK

Jobs outside the UK

Applying for a job in academia

When applying for a postdoc or permanent academic position, as part of your application you will usually be asked to include at least some of the following:

  • a CV (and sometimes an application form)
  • a personal statement explaining your reasons for applying
  • a sample of previous work, either your PhD thesis or publications
  • a career development plan
  • an equality and diversity statement
  • a research proposal
  • two or three academic references.

You will also be required to attend at least one interview.

When applying for a permanent academic job, there may be additional requirements. For example, you may be required to deliver a presentation to members of the academic School to which you are applying.

If you would like personalised help on any aspect of applying for a job, you can book an appointment with a careers adviser.  

Applying for a job

Alternatives to academia

Though for many people with PhDs a career in academia is the right choice, there are many alternative options available. For more information on what you can do with a PhD, see the what can I do with my course page, or book an appointment with a careers adviser.