Find out about careers in academia including roles available, professional bodies, and careers advice.
The following external websites and downloads provide careers advice about working in the sector:
Careers advice websites
- Prospects: Getting an academic job
- Jobs.ac.uk: Applying for an Academic job
- An Academic Career - from Manchester University
- The Guardian - Applying for a postdoc job?
- Science Careers - Academic Scientist’s Toolkit
Resources for download
The United Kingdom Research Office contains sector news.
News, funding opportunities and policy information can be found at Research.
These represent and promote the interests of people working in the sector, providing services such as training and networking opportunities. They often provide careers support for students and graduates and development for people already working in the sector.
Follow professional associations on LinkedIn, or visit their websites for useful sources of news, contacts, work experience and vacancies.
The main professional associations for this sector include:
- Academy of Social Sciences
- Association of Commonwealth Universities - opportunities and information for universities in Commonwealth countries
- Association for University Research and Industry Links (AURIL)
- British Academy for the Humanities and Social Sciences
- Higher Education Academy
- VITAE - for researchers, including doctoral students, postdoctoral fellows, and research staff
- The Royal Society: UK National Academy of Science
Research Councils UK (RCUK) are responsible for investing public money in research to advance knowledge and generate new ideas.
- Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC)
- Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC)
- Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC)
- Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC)
- Medical Research Council (MRC)
- Natural Environment Research Council (NERC)
- Science and Technology Facilities Council (STFC)
Making contacts is essential for success in this sector. Many jobs in this field are gained through networking and speculative applications.
We've compiled a few places you could start:
ResearchGATE is professional online network for research.
European University Institute academic careers observatory
European University Institute academic careers observatory provides information on networking and research opportunities.
Our online database, Graduate Connections, contains information about graduates who are happy to give you information and advice about the kind of work they do.
You can also find out what alumni did after graduation and contact them for advice and inspiration through Newcastle alumni on LinkedIn.
Recruitment fairs, open days, talks and other sector events give valuable insights and the opportunity to make useful contacts.
Regular events for this sector are listed on the Vitae events page.
For more options see our other Sector-specific pages.
Roles & Skills
Opportunities within academic research vary to some extent by discipline and institution.
The Guardian highlights the need to understand the specific area you want to work in the article How to break into international development.
We've included links to external websites that provide descriptions of typical duties, entry requirements and case studies for the range of careers in this sector:
Higher education lecturer
Graduate teaching assistant
Research scientist (life sciences)
Research scientist (maths)
Research scientist (medical)
For additional information on academic roles see University of Manchester: Academic jobs and roles.
Skills employers look for
Skills employers look for include:
- research ability and subject knowledge
- leadership and management skills
- networking and collaboration capability
- presentation and communication ability
- resilience, self-motivation and the capacity to work independently
- time management and ability to meet deadlines
Competition for positions in this sector is strong. The majority of entry level positions within Higher Education institutions are as Research Assistants or Graduate Teaching Assistants (where you would also need to be studying for a higher level degree).
A small number of doctoral graduates and research staff go on to have a long term career in academia. However, this is highly variable by country and subject area.
There are a number of North East universities that advertise academic research positions:
- Newcastle University
- Durham University
- Northumbria University
- Sunderland University
- Teesside University
- Jobs.ac.uk - includes jobs in academic research
- FindAPostDoc - jobs for new and recently qualified PhDs
- Find a PhD - includes PhDs, research studentships, professional doctorates
- Times Higher Education
- Times Education Supplement
- Academic Jobs EU
- EURAXESS - Researchers in Motion programme
- European University Institute - the Max Weber programme has fellowships for junior social science post-docs
Global (including USA)
- Academic 360 - mainly covering US, Canada, Australia and the UK
- Chronicle of Higher Education USA
- Nature Jobs – includes science research roles
- ResearchGATEjobs - international job board with research positions
- Research is Cool - research jobs and academic social networking worldwide
- Science Careers
- Computeroxy - academic positions including computer science, engineering, electrical and mathematical sciences
For more vacancy sources see our Graduate Jobs section.
Not all jobs are advertised. You could also approach institutions directly or find work through networking and making contacts in the sector.
Find schools or departments that interest you and get in touch, always with a named contact.
Be specific about why you are writing to them and what you’re looking for, showing your enthusiasm for the school or department and highlighting any relevant skills. Don’t be disheartened if you don’t get a reply – follow up with a phone call or email to show that you’re keen.
Read Targetjobs website for information about speculative applications.
Use the following resources to research universities and departments for speculative applications: