A lecturer teaches students at university or college level, specialising in one academic subject. They’ll usually have expertise in a particular area of the discipline, such as a set period of history, or specific research method.
What is a lecturer?
In lecturing, you’ll teach in academia at advanced levels for your discipline. You’ll plan and deliver lectures for large groups of students at once, as well as facilitating seminars and workshops - smaller groups looking at a particular area of study in detail. If you lecture in a science subject, you may also oversee laboratory work. You’ll likely give assignments and assess students on their progress.
To teach at the highest academic level, you usually need to have studied at the highest academic level yourself.
You’ll also undertake your own research, aiming for publication in prestigious academic journals. This is especially true if you’re teaching at university level. At higher levels of expertise, you may also supervise graduate students who are working towards masters or doctoral degrees (PhDs).
As a lecturer your responsibilities combine teaching, assessment and research. The discipline you specialise in will determine what your day to day work looks like, but some common responsibilities include:
- Working in a wider academic team to decide on curriculum coverage across different programs.
- Taking responsibility for particular modules within a degree programme, planning key teachings across seminars and lectures.
- Delivering seminars and lectures.
- Setting reading materials, seminar and workshop preparations and assignments.
- Marking assignments, from short form essays and research summaries to dissertations and theses.
- Conducting your own research in collaboration with your university, writing up research papers and pitching for publication across different journals.
- Keeping up to date with student and university level course feedback, such as those delivered by the National Student Survey, and adapting course delivery as required.
- Supervising student research at an undergraduate and postgraduate level, offering 1:1 feedback, assessment and advice for further study.
- Contributing to wider university agenda, such as sitting on research panels, committees and widening participation initiatives.
- Supporting student recruitment initiatives by attending open days and talking to prospective students.
- Taking responsibility for particular administrative roles within your department, such as postgraduate applications, student satisfaction and interdisciplinary collaborations.
A university lecturer salary varies depending on where you work. Salaries are usually standardised across different disciplines within each university, from business lecturer jobs to English lecturer jobs. It’s a good idea to look into the different salaries available across universities which you’d be interested in working in.
In a first lecturing position, often referred to as a junior lecturer role, you can expect to earn around £34,000 - £38,000. As you progress in your career, you could move into senior l positions, fetching a senior lecturer salary of £50,000 and above. With time and experience you could work towards principal or head lecturing positions, with a university professor salary of £60,000 and much more.
To teach at the highest academic level, you usually need to have studied at the highest academic level yourself. This means you’ll need to have completed a PhD in a relevant discipline to your teaching subject. Prior to this you’ll need to have completed an undergraduate degree in a relevant field, and potentially a masters degree, depending on your discipline. For more work based subjects, several years in the discipline may be enough to qualify you.
It’s likely that you’ll also need a record of previous published research and experience teaching at a postgraduate level. Many PhD students take on part time work assisting lecturers at an undergraduate level to secure this. You may also be expected to complete a postgraduate certificate in higher education (PGCHE) with the Fellowship of Higher Education Academy (FHEA). An FHEA qualification may be expected by some institutions prior to applying to posts - though some universities will allow you to carry this out on the job.
Training and development
Much of your training in the practical sides of lecturing will happen on the job. You’ll shadow more senior lecturers and learn the best ways to deliver lectures, as well as more close knit groups like seminars and workshops. You’ll also likely access plenty of on-site training delivered by your HE institution, such as IT workshops and sessions on student wellbeing. These opportunities will vary depending on the size and location of your institution.
If you’re considering a career in academia, most of your work experience will be from your previous academic experiences. You’ll learn how to research, analyse and investigate within your discipline.
If you haven’t achieved a PGCHE prior to accepting your post, you might be expected to achieve this alongside work. This will support you in understanding the pedagogies behind teaching and learning in relation to your discipline. Some lecturers will also apply for a fellowship in HE to demonstrate their experience and expertise in lecturing.
Your skills as a lecturer combine academic subject knowledge with an understanding of what makes great teaching and learning. This includes:
- Robust subject knowledge across your discipline as well as in your specialised area.
- Excellent communication skills - via delivering teaching and 1:1 feedback sessions with students.
- Excellent presentation skills - you’ll need to deliver lectures to large groups of students, so doing this with confidence is a key requirement.
- Research skills - you’ll aim for regular publication as part of your role, so having sound research skills is a must.
- A good understanding of the issues and problems your students may face, such as wellbeing, extenuating circumstances and academic challenges.
- Excellent organisational skills - you’ll be expected to manage your time across multiple modules, student groups and potentially even degree subjects.
- Excellent time management.
- Good grasp of relevant computer systems you’ll need to use, from attendance software to online lecturing.
- Ability to work in a hybrid way - you may give some seminars and lectures online rather than in person, so you’ll need to be confident in doing so.
- Ability to work well within a team - your work sits within a wider staff faculty, so you’ll need to be comfortable working collaboratively with others.
If you’re considering a career in academia, most of your work experience will be from your previous academic experiences. You’ll learn how to research, analyse and investigate within your discipline. It’s also a good idea to attend relevant research conferences while you study in order to network with other academic professionals and gain a broader understanding of how research contributes to your field.
When you’re nearing PhD level and considering lecturing jobs, it’s worth applying for assistant teaching positions to take while studying. This will give you the relevant work experience of teaching that you’ll need when applying for lecturing positions. You’ll usually carry out this early teaching work alongside your study, in an undergraduate discipline related to your field.
Your career prospects as a lecturer are exciting and varied. You’ll begin your work as a lecturer taking responsibility for small modules or assisting on programs. You may need to apply for part time lecturer jobs to build up this experience. With time, you’ll be given further responsibilities such as overseeing whole modules, or even being a program leader.
In lecturing, you’ll teach in academia at advanced levels for your discipline.
As you publish more academic research and build on your teaching experience, you can move towards more principal lectureship roles. You’ll usually need to take on additional responsibilities outside of the teaching space to secure these roles, such as heading up postgraduate courses, admissions, or student support within your department.