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Careers Centre


About this sector

You can read information about role responsibilities, salary, working hours, what to expect, qualifications, skills, work experience, career prospects and related roles on the following Prospects Job Profiles:

You might also see other job profiles of interest in the Teaching and education profiles page (which gives links to the 16 profiles in the sector)

How to gain experience/internships

A PhD is an essential prerequisite for an academic career. There are occasional research positions in universities for those with a good undergraduate degree, but to progress to lectureships and beyond such posts usually have to be combined with work towards a PhD. Securing a PhD studentship is usually dependent on achieving a 1st or 2.1, although an outstanding performance on a post-graduate Masters qualification may sufficiently boost a good 2.2. Academic careers are possible with any degree subject, although those studying arts and humanities will find attracting funding for a PhD and subsequent postdoctoral research much more challenging than scientists and engineers.

PhD students contemplating an academic career should aim to take every opportunity to:

If you have not yet embarked on a PhD use the access that you have to postgraduate students and academics to find out as much as you can about the reality of an academic career in your subject. Have a look at our Postgraduate Study and Researcher pages.

Relevant vacation work is possible – perhaps doing fieldwork or laboratory work for an academic, or undertaking literature searches or other projects. St Andrews has a small number of research and leadership internships for undergraduates over the summer which offer a very useful taster of research work. Also around in your department, speak to lecturers and tutors for any useful contacts in other institutions. Few of these posts are advertised, although occasionally you can find some on our website.

Employers who have previously contacted us about vacation work in research include: Atlantic Whale Foundation, British Antarctic Survey (BAS), Cancer Research UK, Institute for Public Policy Research, the Scottish Executive and the Universities of Glasgow, Dundee, Paisley, Birmingham, Stirling, Westminster and Wales.

Networking, and making speculative applications will help you to find opportunities. Have a look at our work experience page for more information.


How to find a (graduate) job


The first permanent post for an academic is usually a lectureship. There are many fewer lectureships than postdocs who seek them and competition is fierce. A Readership is usually a research-focussed post, with responsibility for leading a research group, attracting funding and so on. A Reader is likely to have established an international reputation in their area of specialism. The most senior position for an academic is that of Professor – these are leaders in their field and likely to have significant managerial responsibility within their department and possibly the wider university. There has been a clear trend to increase the number of Professorial opportunities, primarily in order to attract and retain star research performers in an era of increasing competition between institutions.

There are many journals and websites that list academic job vacancies, many of them are listed below. The main general ones are the Times Higher Educational Supplement, and the Higher Education Guardian. Scientists and those in other technical fields should also look at the New Scientist. Many specialist journals also carry academic vacancies and individual universities websites advertise posts. Academic jobs are not usually advertised through recruitment agencies. Informal networking is also hugely important. Develop contacts through conferences and ask your supervisor for introductions to key researchers in your field.

These websites contain vacancies in academia:

International Students

International mobility is extremely common in this sector, and therefore much of the advice presented here is relevant to international students interested in pursuing an academic career in the UK. However, note that not all funding opportunities are open to all nationalities, for example UK research council funding for PhD Studentships is available only to UK (fees and maintenance) and EU (fees only) students. Most universities have an international office that provides information for international students at, or considering work at, that institution.

There are frequent changes to the rules affecting international students and recent graduates wishing to work in the UK. It is recommended that, for the most up-to-date information, you check UKCISA: UK Council for International Student Affairs, which offers independent information and advice about immigration, finance and working in the UK, and also the UK Border Agency. You can find further links and resources on our visas and immigration page


Key UK Resources


Use CareerConnect, your central careers hub, to:


General academia-related careers information


Professional bodies


International resources


The Careers Centre subscribes to GoinGlobal, a specialist website with information and job vacancies worldwide.