Pursuing an academic career

If you want to work in academia after you graduate, there are many things you can do during your PhD to give yourself the best chance of securing your first academic job.

Academic career pathways

There are several different career pathways in academia, which will determine how much of your time is dedicated to research and/or teaching. At Bristol, Academic staff pathways are either research only (e.g. Research Associate), teaching only (e.g. Teaching Fellow) or a combination of research and teaching (e.g. Lecturer). This structure will be similar across UK Higher Education institutions (HEIs). The links on the right-hand side have more information on academic career pathways.

Understanding the Higher Education environment

To ensure you are taking part in relevant activities now, make sure you understand how academic work is measured and what policies impact the work of academics, such as, the Research Excellence Framework (REF) and Teaching Excellence and Student Outcomes Framework (TEF).

Maximise your chances of an academic career

If you know you want to pursue an academic career, there are some key things you should be doing during your PhD to maximise your chances in this competitive field.

  • Publish: This proves you are serious about an academic career. Talk to your supervisor about what would be expected of an aspiring academic in your field and develop a publication plan.
  • Apply for grants: Identify research grants available to PGRs using sites like Euraxess and get advice on writing successful applications from Vitae.
  • Increase your impact: Demonstrate the impact of your research in areas such as policy, education or use by community groups. Attend the courses on public engagement for PGRs and follow the advice from Vitae.
  • Teach: Ask your supervisor and academics in your department about opportunities to teach or supervise undergraduates. The Academic Staff Development team provide mandatory Starting to Teach courses for PGRs.
  • Network: Conferences are good places to meet academics and let them know about your career aspirations. Create an up to date blog or academic profile to direct them to. If you’re not sure where to start, come to a Quickfix on networking and follow the advice on Jobs.ac.uk. You can also use sites such as Academia.edu to connect with academics and share publications.

Academic CVs and covering letters

Use our guide on academic CVs (PDF 151KB) and attend a Quickfix to find out essential information on what to include in an academic CV. You should always seek feedback on your academic CV from your supervisor or others. Jobs.ac.uk and Vitae have advice and example academic CVs.

Academic covering letters or supporting statements should draw out your most impressive experience, but be tailored to the role and emphasise what you will contribute to the department. Get in touch with the named contact on job adverts to find out exactly what they're looking for. For more advice, use our pages on writing cover letters and Jobs.ac.uk and Vitae.

Academic Interviews

Academic interviews will usually include a panel including academics in the department, the Head of School, a representative from HR, and possibly an academic from a different department. You should research the department and individuals that you would like to collaborate with before the interview. You may also be asked to give a presentation, in which you should demonstrate links with the department and your plans for future research, funding and teaching. Use the Interview support available at the Careers Service and the links below for advice.

Options with your PhD

To explore other options outside of academia, see our Options with your PhD page.

Our practice interview software

We subscribe to Interview Stream so you can practice the questions you're most likely to be asked.

Register using your Bristol email address to see and hear yourself practice some of the 7,000 questions available.