Lecturer (higher education): job description

Higher education lecturers work for universities teaching and researching specialist subjects.

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What does a higher education lecturer do? | Starting salaries | Typical employers | Qualifications and training | Key skills

Lecturers plan and deliver teaching on their specialist subject to university students. This includes creating teaching materials, preparing for tutorials/seminars and marking students’ work, as well as direct teaching. They also research their subject, attending conferences and writing articles, books and other materials to share their knowledge. They are supported by higher education administrators and work with other university staff such as librarians to make sure students have access to the resources they need to do well.

Typical duties include:

  • planning teaching, including lectures, seminars/tutorials and learning materials
  • meeting students individually to discuss progress
  • checking and assessing students' work
  • pursuing research
  • interviewing potential students
  • carrying out administration, such as attending faculty meetings and writing reports
  • writing research proposals, papers and other publications
  • supervising PhD students and research staff
  • managing research budgets
  • preparing bids for funding for departmental research projects.

Competition for senior roles is strong, and lecturers are expected to publish their research to progress their careers. Academia is a relatively small world, so networking can be key to hearing about career opportunities.

Starting salaries

New lecturers can earn between £35,000 and £40,000 . Salaries are negotiated across the higher education sector by trade unions each year. It’s worth noting that many lecturers are employed on fixed-term contracts and it’s common to move between institutions to build experience and networks.

Typical employers of higher education lecturers

  • Universities.
  • Higher education establishments.

Lecturing vacancies are advertised on universities’ websites, on national newspapers’ job sites and specialist sites such as jobs.ac.uk and Times Higher Education .

Qualifications and training required

Lecturing at higher education level isn’t a traditional graduate role, as you usually need a masters or PhD (along with a record of published research) to secure a job. An alternative route is via industry or professional experience.

You don't need a specific teaching qualification to become a lecturer in HE, although some universities ask for lecturers to have completed a postgraduate certificate in higher education. You’ll also be able to build experience of teaching students while studying for your PhD, perhaps as a graduate teaching assistant.

Find out more about training to teach in further and higher education .

Key skills for higher education lecturers

  • An understanding of, and an interest in, how adults learn.
  • Expertise in a particular subject area or areas.
  • Excellent presentation skills.
  • Excellent research skills.
  • Written and verbal communication skills.
  • Strong relationship-building skills to build networks.

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