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Teaching & Education careers

Teaching: Higher Education, University Lecturing & Academic Research

Why get into higher education?

Teaching careers in higher education allow you to educate and inspire others, whilst pursuing your own personal research into the subject that you are passionate about. What’s more is that you don’t even need a teaching qualification to do it! Sounds simple, huh?

Wait a second though: you can’t just start teaching degree students without having a serious academic pedigree yourself. You’re going to need to have done some postgraduate study, usually a PhD, and know your subject like the back of your hand.

What does higher education require?

Higher education lecturers tend to be employed by universities and higher education colleges, teaching people from the age of 18 upwards. These guys might teach academic or vocational subjects from all kinds of disciplines, from classics, history and English literature, to engineering, computer science and even fisheries management.

However, the one thing they all have in common is that they are all specialists in their subjects.

Higher education teachers have to be at the top of their game. They might be teaching undergraduate degree courses, postgraduate degrees or professional qualifications.

Consequently, they are often teaching people with a high level of intelligence, a keen interest in their subject and an existing knowledge of the field of study. Therefore, it can be much more intellectually challenging and stimulating than teaching at a school level.

The main thing about teaching in higher education is that the actual teaching part is only half of the job. All higher education lecturers are academic experts in their field, and as such they will spend a large portion of their time developing their own research, writing books, journals and academic presentations.

People who pursue these careers are truly embedded in the academic research community, and their work contributes to the wider research aims of their institution. Therefore, teaching is only a supplementary part of their personal academic objectives.

What is the experience of higher education like?

Teaching in higher education is a whole world away from teaching in a school classroom. Lecture theatres and tutorial rooms are going to be your main stomping ground – or laboratories, if you’re working on the science side of things.

You might be lecturing to 300 students in an auditorium, or leading discussions with small seminar groups. Alternatively, you might be giving one-to-one academic guidance in tutorial sessions, or conducting laboratory demonstrations and supervising scientific experiments.

Higher education lecturers keep their fingers on the pulse and will stay up to date on advances in relevant research. Therefore, they might need to adapt their lecturing and tuition methods accordingly. In addition to leading lectures, seminars and tutorials, these guys play an integral role in defining, planning and developing their individual course’s curriculum.

Education is not standardised between different institutions, or even between different departments, and course structures and examination methods will differ greatly. Thus, these guys will define different modules, create reading lists, and set and mark coursework and examinations.

These academics will also spend a lot of time in the library and in their own offices, working on their own personal research projects, reading, planning, writing and then preparing their work for publication.

Most lecturers need to have an undergraduate degree, a master’s degree, and a PhD, or be in the process of doing the latter. Indeed, some postgrad students will lecture on the side, whilst they are still studying.

Eventually, some academics might become heads of their department, professors and maybe even the dean of the university. Salaries also tend to be higher in higher education teaching than in schools and further education colleges.

If you find yourself all wrapped up in books, you dream of having your own snug, little office, and you enjoy the idea of imparting your impressive knowledge onto the best and brightest, then the academy might well be the perfect place for you!