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Your Academic Career

Learn and LeadThe rewards of becoming an authority in your field and pushing back the boundaries of your subject form a powerful incentive to stay in academia after your PhD. For many the first step is an application for Fellowship or other independent funding (see below) following one or two postdoctoral or lecturing positions, to begin conducting your own research in earnest.

The disconcerting truth is that many early career academics turn to another career path eventually. The combination of short-term contracts, impermanent employment and a slippery career ladder means that an academic career is not for the faint of heart. Here are some points to consider:

Postdoctoral research - a reality check

The act of carrying out research will only take you so far as a career academic. If your enjoyment of your role as a postdoctoral researcher is built purely on exploring your subject (through eg lab work or literature study), you are likely to be taken aback by how little of this you will have time for as a lecturer and supervisor.

Having secured a lecturing position, a significant percentage of your working week is likely to be taken up with administrative responsibilities, recruitment, teaching and meetings. Be prepared for a shift from active research work to overseeing the work of others once you make this transition.

Finally, consider that postdoctoral careers differ based on their location. Research experience in a different country can greatly enhance your professional versatility and your CV. The US National Postdoc Association has a wealth of information available for those considering looking for research work in the USA, while Australia, Egypt, Germany and Japan are actively encouraging researchers to come and work on their shores.

Funding your own research

You will eventually need to secure funding for yourself as an independent academic, beyond the shadow of your supervisor(s). While you may still have to rely on shared facilities initially, this move will allow you to begin establishing yourself as Principal Investigator on your own publications. The process of making funding applications is time-consuming and meticulous. Consider the support available to you in preparing your applications at St Andrews.

  • The Research Business Development & Contracts (RBDC) office maintains a team of Business Development Managers, whose role is to facilitate research staff funding applications across all academic schools.
  • RBDC also offer access to the Research Professional database (University login required), one of the most comprehensive sources of funding calls for academic research.
  • Women researchers in science, and those returning to work, should see our Athena SWAN information on related funding sources.
  • Training on funding applications is also available from RBDC through the CAPOD booking system.
  • Finally, do not forget to talk to your colleagues. Those who have been through the process and succeeded will often be the best source of information on what makes a good funding application.


Funding & job search links:

"Grants on the Web" (UK funding providers' records of past awards, including topic and recipient):