An academic is usually involved in both teaching and research in a particular subject area. They work at a university or other higher education institution.
The information in our job profiles aims to give a general overview of the role and a guideline to what it involves. The content is not intended to be exhaustive and roles will vary depending on the organisation and sector. The salary ranges are a guide only, as these are dependent on the size and location of the organisation.
How does this role align to the green agenda?
Creating a green and sustainable society will require new insights to be generated through cutting-edge research, and the education and enabling of individuals to deliver change within their communities, corporations, institutions and wider society. Increasingly, sustainability and environmental matters are of vital importance across the full spectrum of scholarly pursuits, from arts and humanities to the social sciences, education, design, health sciences, engineering, and natural sciences. Additionally, there is a need for academics who can cross boundaries and integrate insights from across disciplines.
Skills and capabilities
In the context of sustainability, there is a growing need for ‘boundary spanning’ skills and capacities: the ability to translate ideas and knowledge between subject areas and apply them to real-world challenges.
Typically, academics have a high level of knowledge of a particular subject, which is built through post-graduate study and research. The specific knowledge and skills will depend on the chosen field of speciality, but there is freedom to develop expertise in an area of particular interest or passion. You must have the ability to teach in multiple formats (lectures, seminars, workshops, tutorials).
- Analytical thinking
- Creative design
- Effective communication in a range of forms to a variety of audiences (e.g. academic writing, public engagement, and student interaction)
- Project management
- Stakeholder engagement.
A day in the life
Academic life is highly varied and often means handling many responsibilities concurrently. However, there is frequently a high level of day-to-day flexibility and an ability to self-direct your time. In many cases it is possible to spend some time working from home.
For a university lecturer with research, teaching and administrative responsibilities, a typical week may consist of planning and delivering teaching for undergraduate or postgraduate students, supervising research students, writing for scholarly books or articles, running research projects, liaising with external stakeholders relevant to your field of expertise, and contributing to the work of university committees.
The annual academic calendar can lead to fluctuations in workload intensity, with term time teaching responsibilities typically being more structured and time consuming, and the summer period being devoted to progressing research outcomes.
There are multiple career stages within academia.
Potential career progression
Universities usually have a highly structured system of career progression.
After completing a PhD, an entry level position may be a postdoctoral research fellow or teaching associate.
A permanent research and teaching lectureship may be the next step. These roles are typically open to candidates from around the world and can be very competitive.
A rigorous academic promotion procedure regulates progression within universities, with multiple bands existing from Lecturer (or Assistant Professor) through to full Professor.
Promotion depends on demonstrating strong performance across multiple domains including scholarly publications, competitive research grant income, teaching excellence and university service.
Teaching and research are the core responsibilities of Academics; their skill base can transcend subject boundaries and the role is therefore needed across all subject areas and disciplines.
The University of Nottingham is a pioneering, global university that delivers world-leading research that transforms lives and societies as well an outstanding student experience for its 46,000 students.