Career Guide

Higher Education Lecturer

Ben Maples  · Oct 28th 2020

Do you love learning, obtaining information and delving into a favourite subject deeply?

Lecturer addressing a room full of people

If you said yes in your head, then you may be perfect for higher education teaching if you want to help others find a passion for studying. If you’re considering becoming a lecturer, read our comprehensive guide below for more information.

Higher Education Lecturer Career Guide

What is a university lecturer?

A higher education lecturer teaches subjects, both vocational and academic, to students over the age of 18. They can be either on undergraduate or postgraduate courses as both levels attend university lectures. A uni lecturer is an expert in a particular area or field and teaches students through various methods, from seminars, lectures and tutorials to fieldwork, practical demonstrations and online learning.

Using multimedia technology is also common, through online classes and assignments. University lecturers typically research alongside teaching, for the institution or their department. Having scholarly journal articles or books published helps raise a university’s profile. Most uni lecturers complete admin tasks and pastoral activities with their students throughout the working day, whether they work in a university or a further education college. The role can be called a university lecturer, higher education lecturer or a further education lecturer.

Higher education lecturer jobs are in university, further education colleges and educational institutions for those aged 18 and over.

What does a university teacher do?

Similarly to a college lecturer, a university teacher will deliver tutorials, seminars and lectures to students, assess coursework, set exams and mark them and design courses and teaching materials. They’ll implement new teaching methods to ensure lessons stay up to date with the latest research and industry developments. Lecturing jobs also supervise student research, final year dissertation or research projects, as well as PhD and Master’s dissertations.

They may lead a research group, assistants and support students in an advisory or pastoral position. Also, a senior lecturer may collaborate with other universities and commercial, industrial and public companies alongside attending professional seminars and conferences. Their duties extend to carrying out student admissions, induction programmes and sitting in committee and board meetings. Administrative responsibilities are a significant part of the university teacher’s day. As you progress within this career, you may supervise other staff or manage the entire department.

Higher Education Lecturer Career

How to become a university lecturer?

If becoming a university lecturer is a lifetime goal, then you’ll need to undertake a significant amount of studying and learning yourself. There are no official university lecturer qualifications. Instead, you’ll need to have a decent degree in a relevant subject to the area you want to teach in, and most likely a PhD.

But, how to become a lecturer in a vocational subject? You’ll need experience working in that or a related field, as well as a degree or professional qualification. Do you need a PhD to be a lecturer? For vocational subjects, having extensive experience working in the industry is just as valuable. The answer is dependent on the topic you want to teach and whether the university will accept your application. It is common for uni lecturers to have a teaching qualification, either a Postgraduate Certificate in Higher Education (PGCHE) or Postgraduate Certificate in Learning and Teaching in Higher Education. Although these are not essential, it can help make your job application stand out from the crowd. However, some institutions require a HEA Fellowship instead, which is possible after finishing a teaching qualification in line to the HEA UK Professional Standards Framework (UKPSF), regarding teaching and supporting learning in further and higher education.

How many years does it take to become a lecturer? Firstly, you’ll need an undergraduate degree which can take up to four years full-time depending on whether you have a placement year. Afterwards, a Master’s can take up to three years to complete part-time, or one to two for full-time courses. Then we have a PhD qualification, which is not required by all universities, but most expect this from a university teacher.

A doctorate takes up to seven years to complete part-time, on average. If we add all these up, it can take between seven years (minimum) to fourteen years (maximum) to have the necessary ‘professor qualifications’ for a lecturer. How to become a lecturer at a college? If you want to work within a college instead of a university, they may not ask for a PhD. You may need an undergraduate degree, postgraduate qualification or a teaching qualification; this is dependent on the college itself.

Suppose you’re considering the route of becoming a lecturer without a PhD. In that case, you’ll most likely succeed by picking a vocational subject, as academic subjects will require extensive research and studying and in most instances, all three levels of higher education. Also, particular fields may require specific courses; let’s look at how to become a law lecturer? Undergraduate and postgraduate qualifications are a must, potentially a PhD too, but the institution may want individuals who have passed the LLB exam and who have worked within the field.

After you’ve secured the relevant requirements, most individuals work in the short term or temporary higher education lecturer positions before being offered a permanent post. Some work at more than one university or offered a based on of their future research aspirations.

What skills are useful for a uni lecturer?

Those who wish to lecture about education or at a university need expertise in their subject - that’s essential. They’ll need to be enthusiastic about their area, be willing to conduct research and to participate at seminars and conferences. Also, being able to pass passion and inspire students and colleagues is vital, and to network with other researchers, professionals and lecturers in the field as well as other universities. A uni lecturer should have excellent communication, problem-solving, and time-management skills for their duties.

A higher education lecturer teaches subjects, both vocational and academic, to students over the age of 18.

Writing and research skills are crucial for either their independent research thesis or for writing reports and marking coursework. The day consists of a mix of teaching, administration tasks and meeting with students, so managing a workload, meeting deadlines is critical. A university teacher needs to be able to work alone, as part of a team and always have the aims of the department and institution in mind as they represent the university at all times. Analytical, IT and administrative skills are also essential, alongside a flexible approach to work as you may work long hours, weekends and evenings.

Where to find work experience for higher education lecturer jobs?

Most university teachers gain work experience while completing their doctorate qualification. They’ll take on teaching duties through graduate teaching assistant positions, or through research assistant jobs for the university. They may lead seminars and tutorials, mark coursework and exams, and other administrative tasks for higher education lecturers. It’s worth checking with the university labs to see if they need an extra hand while you’re studying for a PhD.

In some cases, universities offer teaching and admin duties alongside a bursary. The most vital research experience will be from your PhD dissertation, and you should try to get this published in a scholarly article or book to enhance your research profile. You can also attend workshops, conferences and lectures where you can present your paper to others in the field. Contacts and experience are essential in higher education, so any experience outside the academic world is useful, from prospects, teaching and employability and working in an educational setting.

How much do university lecturers get paid?

We’ve reached the big question, ‘how much does a lecturer earn?’ The average university lecturer salary scale ranges from £35,000 and £100,000 plus, depending on experience and subject. The lecturer pay tends to start at around £35,000, but it can be as high as £44,000. But the average university professor salary for those at a senior level rises to a range of £44,000 and £58,000. Then, the average lecturer salary at a professional rank is when the big bucks come in, where you can earn more than £100,000.

It tends to be for individuals who have extensive experience and managerial responsibility, so possibly the head of a department at a prestigious university who has completed research that has increased the institution’s profile. How much do uni lecturers get paid in other countries of the UK? Most higher education roles follow a nationally-agreed pay scale, but these are different to further education roles in England, Wales and Northern Ireland. For more information on how much do lecturers earn at these rates, you can visit the University and College Union website.

Also, a university may offer different salaries depending on the subject and experience of the individual, so a law lecturer salary where the professor has worked on high-profile cases in the judiciary system for 20 years may earn more than a chemistry lecturer. You can also research jobs while studying, and make a note of salary expectations on various lecturer jobs.

Higher Education Lecturer

What are college teaching jobs like?

We’ve established the average uni lecturer salary and the art of becoming a college lecturer, but what is like day-to-day? Firstly, this will depend on whether you’re working as a lecturer in education or primary education or other subjects in the university curriculum. Working hours tend to revolve around the average 35-hour week; however, you can expect to work over this to fit in lecture preparation, tutorials, marking, open days and your research.

Some seminars and lectures may be in the evening. As highlighted above, lecturers can work on part-time contracts, and you can take a career break, but it’s essential to ensure you’re active in the research realm. It’s common for uni lecturers to take up to one academic year as a sabbatical to complete research. Flexible working is also available, where you can split your time between research, teaching and admin duties. How your time is divided is dependent on your role, the institution and it’s a specialty, as in some positions you may be required to undertake research and lecturing. In contrast, others may consist of solely teaching tasks.

You’ll spend your time in classrooms, lecture theatres, labs, studios, outdoors or hospital wards, depending on your subject requirements. If you’re working in a specialist subject and want to progress, you may need to move institutions for a permanent position. It’s common for higher education lecturers to work on their professional experience in the industry alongside teaching, like those in the media, art and design and publishing as an example.

If becoming a university lecturer is a lifetime goal, then you’ll need to undertake a significant amount of studying and learning yourself.

Where to find jobs as a uni lecturer?

Higher education lecturer jobs are in university, further education colleges and educational institutions for those aged 18 and over. You can also work with specialist postgraduate institutions and business or law schools. Universities overseas also offer employment opportunities. In most cases, individual FE and higher education institutions display vacancies on their website, or you can search job websites, research journals and recruitment agencies. Networking is a crucial path to finding positions, so ensure you maintain contacts within your field and across universities.

What are the prospects for higher education lecturers?

Most lecturers work towards enhancing their teaching skills, gaining experience and developing their research profile within their industry. To improve your profile, attending workshops, conferences and presenting research papers is crucial, as well as contributing papers or books for your university.

Working abroad, collaborating with other institutions and applying for grants and funding can also help. Most uni lecturers have independence early on, allowing you to manage your teaching and research. As you progress within the career, your responsibilities will grow, from teaching and admin to managing other staff and supervisory taste. If you’d like to move up to a senior level, you’ll need to show your ability to undertake various roles, an active research position and expertise in your field. After proving this, you can progress to a senior lecturer or principal lecturer, and later, reader, chair, professor or dean of the university. These positions involve more managerial duties, like a course director or head of department and means research and student time decreases.

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