Academia is concerned with the pursuit of research, education and scholarship. Academics are people who work in this field, either as a teacher or researcher at a university or other higher education institution. They are typically people who study and analyse their area of specialisation before sharing their findings through teaching, publishing and participating in public discussions.
An academic in a business faculty, for example, might seek to analyse how leadership can be used to motivate a workforce or what an ageing population may mean for productivity in the future.
A career as an academic will often begin with short-term or casual positions as a tutor. To secure these positions you need to be a standout performer as a student. This means highly competitive marks (ideally including some academic merit prizes), strong relationships with faculty and successful admission to an honours program (many of which require prospective applicants to possess a distinction average and several references). You might also demonstrate that you’ve been involved in Peer Assisted Study Sessions (PASS).
From this point, it’s a matter of continuing to distinguish yourself, through excellence in teaching and research, so that you can pursue new academic opportunities as they arise. You’ll need to make a concerted effort to publish articles in prestigious journals or take up extracurricular activities.
Another way you may want to become an academic is by completing a masters program or PhD. Today most candidates need a PhD to obtain a full-time position, as the criteria for most academic jobs tend to favour coursework over research. Impressive professional experience is also looked upon favourably. Ideally, the experience will be aligned with your research interests. For example, you have experience in audit and accounting at a large accounting firm and are interested in pursuing further research in this area.
Whichever path you choose, it’s important to bear in mind that academic institutions are drawn primarily to people who possess both scholarly potential and a clear idea of their area of research.
- Have an exceptional academic transcript
- Love research and have an inquiring mind
- Are highly self-motivated
- Wish to teach
Other careers in this field are:
- Course coordinator