An Academic Career


Professor Adrian Armstrong descibes the advantages and disadvantages of being in charge of organising his own workload.

Are you prepared for the demands on your home life of being an academic?

Some academics manage to maintain quite strict boundaries between their academic and their home life, but for many, the boundaries blur and research can be all consuming.

Sometimes they have to work long or irregular hours because of the administrative side of the job. However even in the absence of such distractions, many hours choose to work long hours because it is their passion.

"I conduct my research both in the office and at home but do most of the marking on the weekends at home. I typically work six days per week." Dr Simon Brocklehurst, Earth Sciences.

"Every colleague that I have who has children, waits until the children go to bed and then resumes work. Most colleagues I know either choose to do their emails, or read PhD or undergraduate students’ work in the evenings." Dr Angelia Wilson, Senior Lecturer in Politics.

Which camp are you likely to fall into? This will probably depend on your personality, your personal circumstances, the stage you are at in your career, your discipline and your institution, all of which can have a significant impact on how you manage your academic life.

Dr Kevin Lane talks about the joys and the uncertainties of a Research Fellowship.

How long are you prepared to wait for a permanent academic job?

Some academics have a swift and smooth journey between PhD and permanent academic job. If you are in the right discipline, have good publications and/or teaching experience, an excellent academic reputation and can be flexible about your next position, you may find a permanent academic job quite quickly.

However, in many cases, the path between completing a doctoral qualification and landing a permanent job as an academic can involve a period of uncertainty, sometimes with a succession of short term and/or part-time contracts, alongside the pressure to publish your work and establish your professional reputation.

  • How long are you prepared to give yourself to achieve your goal of a permanent academic job?
  • What will sustain you during this time?
  • Have you already given yourself a deadline - which you have already passed? If so, you may have been unrealistic with your original deadline, or you may be drifting.
  • What are you going to do differently to make sure your next 'academic or bust' deadline doesn't slip?