6 Tips for Succeeding in an Academic Career

Most academics will admit that a university career is not an easy one, but they’re just as quick to add that an academic career is both fascinating and rewarding. If you feel compelled to pursue a career in academia, the following 6 tips could help you launch it successfully:

1. Secure Your Academic Credentials

There are few other fields where academic credentials matter as much as they do in academia. It is crucial to secure your academic credentials early. This may be the most challenging aspect of launching an academic career, as it can take many years. A bachelor’s degree typically takes 3-4 years, depending on the country where you study. Then a PhD takes an average of 8 years to complete.

Some aspiring academics secure jobs as teachers, teaching assistants or teacher’s aides to get through these tough years as a student. This sort of work experience can be instrumental later in securing better paying university roles. After you’ve earned a certificate III in education support or a bachelor’s degree, you can usually obtain work in the school system, along with valuable classroom experience.

2. Learn the Secrets for What Makes a Publication-Worthy Research Project

If your research projects fail to produce results that can be published, you’ll quickly find yourself out of funding and out of work. As an academic, there is intense pressure to publish research in influential journals that will keep your university in the public eye.

I’ll let you in on the most important keys to getting published: You must design an experiment or research project that will answer a compelling question in your field of interest. Conduct the experiment. Then write up the results clearly and accurately. Be sure to include a succinct and understandable summary that journalists and other researchers can easily use for citation purposes.

3. Understand What Makes a Compelling Grant Application

Universities depend on grants for significant amounts of funding. If you can develop the ability to secure your own grant funding, you’re much likelier to remain employed as an academic.

4. Get Comfortable Approaching Colleagues You’ve Never Met

Networking will be one of the most important skills you can cultivate if you hope to succeed in any career, particularly a career in academia. Volunteering is one the easiest ways to accomplish this goal. When opportunities present themselves to do so, offer to sit on boards and committees that are relevant to your field of interest. This will allow you to form essential relationships with your colleagues in many departments across the University. Find mentors early on and touch base with them periodically.

5. Perfect Your Presentation Skills

To get and remain employed as an academic, you will need to make presentations constantly — at conferences, in classrooms, in front of committees. As an undergraduate student, be sure to take as many public speaking courses as your schedule allows.

6. Manage Your Online Presence

Create your own website and maintain a professional blog that you keep updated. This is an excellent place to showcase your publications, presentations, seminars and other academic work. It also allows potential collaborators to find you easily.

If you decide to pursue an academic career, I hope these suggestions will help propel you to success. Best wishes!

Adam Torkildson