There are many great questions that you may find yourself ready to ask in life. One of the very first will always involve your career. You’ll be working for a long time, and you want to make sure that you choose the right path to embark on.

But with so many options available, it can often seem quite daunting. If you’re currently in college, considering your options while still in high school, or even a graduate out in the working work in search of a change, you might like to consider a career in academia.

Academic career paths have a lot to offer. Alongside an interesting working environment and focusing on a topic that you have a high interest in and a lot of passion for, working in a university can offer a wealth of security too. So let’s take a look at the ins and outs of working in academia.

*Disclosure: this is a partnered post.

The World Of Academia

When you think about it, the world of academia is something that you will know a lot about. After 13 years of schooling, four years of college, and maybe even graduate school, you’ve spent a lot of your life involved in academia already.

When you have a particular passion for an area of academia, whether it’s creative or scientific or anything in between, embarking on an academic career path can often make sense to you. There are also a wealth of benefits to working in academia, from the accolades and research to the financial rewards and job security through tenure.

Now, let’s take a look into some of the roles that you could consider.


Academic Faculty Positions


If you have experience from out in the working world in your particular field, you may want to consider being a lecturer. A great example of this would be a business lecturer. Lecturers differ from professors in the sense that their workload is quite different.

They purely teach, whereas professors also conduct research and serve on various committees, usually only at the undergraduate level. They can also be very new teachers with no previous education experience.

Assistant Professor

However, if you’ve still in college, or you’re thinking about going back to school and then down the professor career back, you could start out as an assistant professor. An assistant professors job role will be your first step on an academic career path.

These are positions available to recent graduates. Like lecturers, they often teach purely at the undergraduate level, and their workload is largely centered around teaching.

Associate Professor

A step up from an assistant professor position would then be the associate professor. It’s the natural career progression on from an assistant professor. Here, the job still involves teaching, but it can often come with academic tenure.

Associate professors would also be focusing a little more on research, getting work published in credible journals, and building a name for themselves professionally.


Then, you’d be looking at a full professorship. To hold the position of a full professor, or professor, is quite an honor. At this stage, it’s likely that you’ve contributed a significant amount of research and work to your field after receiving your tenure status.

Although this role is often quite difficult to reach, due to the competitive nature of an academic career, it’s often the position that most budding academics aim for.

Non-Academic Administrative Roles


Department Head

But you may also want to think about life outside of academia. This can often start with becoming the academic head of department within your field. Although some positions may still come with the option of a teaching element, you may find that your work will now involve more management.

The responsibilities often include leadership, financial and quality responsibilities, research management, as well of lots of departmental development. As a professor, you may find this is your step up into academic administration.

Faculty Dean

A step up from the department head would be the faculty dean, or the dean of a school. Although teaching may no longer be apart of your job role, you may find that the roles are somewhat similar as a department head, except that now the responsibilities are for the entire school or faculty, and not just the set department.

A lot of emphases will be on management, leadership, and development here. And you’ll often work closely with department heads to drive the school forward.

Department Director

Moving away from the academic side entirely now, a huge part of any university is its business side. Because, after all, every school is a business. So, if you have a particular skill in a set area, such as finance or marketing, you may want to work within one of these departments. Administration wise, Director would be your highest position to reach.


Then, at the very top of the academic career path hierarchy are the various vice-chancellor positions. With the deputy, pro vice-chancellor positions, and then the head of the university, the vice-chancellor, there are a range of different people that run the school, if you like. If you’re interested in college management or leadership, one of these positions is likely to be your end goal.


Entry Requirements

High School

Now, we should look at what you will need to get you started on that academic career path in the first place. If you do happen to be in high school now, you’re going to want to make sure that you’re really working hard on your areas of interest, or even a field that you excel in.

If you do want to pursue an academic path, you need to make sure you can meet the college requirements to get you started at the undergraduate level.


Moving onto the undergraduate level, this is really going to be your starting point of any academic career. If you know what field you want to work in, it will be in your favor. You will need to choose courses that will contribute to your success in the field.

If you’re not sure, then choose courses that you’re passionate about or are good at and you may find that by senior year, your path has been paved for you.


Then, at the graduate level, you will find yourself really getting ready to enter into academic. Alongside the different types of master’s programs, you also need to be thinking ahead to the Ph.D. – which is a prerequisite for an academic career path. So be sure to choose the right master’s program to prepare you for your doctorate research.


You may also find that you need to get a little bit of experience to help you land your first role as an assistant professor. Academic careers are competitive, so you often need to stand out.

It could benefit you to get a teaching assistant role if you can, or even start getting some teaching experience as you’re doing your Phd.

Teaching vs. Research

Now, one question you may have at this point will be about the day to day job role in a traditional academic position, such as any of the professor roles. Most roles will require both reaching and research, and getting the balance between those can often be quite tough.

Of course, some positions will state what your responsibilities are, so you should find balancing research and teaching a little easier. Although a huge portion of your workload will revolve around teaching, especially in the early days, it’s in your own interest to put your all into research, especially if you want to progress.

Career Progression


Thinking a little more about the career progression in academia, you may already have a slight idea of how you’d go about this. But generally, you would choose to work through the different professor levels, unless a diversion into academic administration takes your fancy.

You may even find that this is something that you consider after considerable years as a tenured professor.


Tenure is often the aim for a lot of budding academics. Although it is constantly questioned and criticized, tenure is something that a lot of professors will want to achieve throughout their career.

Not only does this offer a huge level of job security, but it’s also an honor. It can take a lot of work, especially distinguished research work, to get to this position. And if you do want to go on to progress past this level, further outstanding work will still be required.

Alternative Options


If at this point, you’re unsure about pursuing a university-based academic career, you may want to consider relevant alternatives. When you’re most interested in the research side of academia, you may be interested in a career in research, perhaps in science or even business, as an alternate.


Or, if it’s the teaching side of the job that appeals to you the most, but you’re put off by the pressure of research that comes with academia, you may want to consider teaching at different levels.

Elementary or secondary teaching roles, or even other administrative roles in a high school could be worth looking into.