With an increasing importance being placed on producing graduates with relevant work skills, transitions from industry to academia are becoming more commonplace. With opportunities on the rise, could this be the right time to make the move from industry to academia?
If you’re thinking about making the move, before you make any rash decisions, it’s important to consider whether the varied life of teaching, research, administrative and leadership duties would be a good fit for you. Try talking to people within academia to get a feel for what a day in the life of an academic within your chosen field is like. It may be vastly different to your pre-conceived ideas and you don’t want a sudden shock once you make the move!
Bear in mind that making the move from industry to academia may take some time. Within purely academic areas, entry without a PhD (or nearing completion of a PhD) is difficult. However, within more specialised, vocational areas, ‘real world’ experience can be just as important. Below we’ve included some of the steps you may want to consider to facilitate the transition.
If you haven’t got one already, it’s a good idea to gain at least a masters qualification before applying for academic roles. As mentioned above, if your specialism is vocational, experience may be enough, but post graduate qualifications certainly increase your chances of both employment and progression. If your area is research based, working towards a doctorate may be essential, but this can be done in conjunction with some paid teaching.
Building up some teaching experience will be essential. As well as mentoring and coaching within your current workplace, gain experience by teaching in colleges, or by guest lecturing. Guest lecturing will offer you the chance to get a real taste for what it’s like and offers you a great excuse to network prior to applying for any roles.
Contacts within academia can be very handy. If you’ve taken part in any projects with academics through your professional life, now is the time to get in touch with them. As well as being able to vouch for your knowledge and skills, they will be able to keep their ear to the ground about opportunities coming up in the future. They may also be able to suggest/support opportunities to gain your PhD.
To help you to get a better feel for the steps you might need to take, we talked to Tony Steyger from Southampton Solent University who made the move from the media industry to lecturing.
What prompted you to make the move?
“I was at a time in my life and my career where I needed a new challenge. My best friend, a university lecturer, suggested I try teaching, and that there was a need within HE for media industry professionals to bring their expertise and to impart some real world skills in film and television production to students.”
How did you make the change?
“I applied for a few posts and although I had limited teaching experience I managed to talk up all the monitoring I had done within my professional career. Emphasising the transferrable skills I developed in industry, helped me to explain the parallels between directing and teaching. Networking with lecturers also helped me to gain some experience by guest lecturing, which was no doubt essential in securing a full time post.”
Do you have any tips on approaching universities?
“If you are going to sell yourself to universities, have something prepared such as a PowerPoint or dvds ready to show. Find out the relevant course leader and tutors of the courses that seem most appropriate and approach them for a chat. Bare in mind, universities are fragmented places and multiple approaches to many people; even on the same corridor might be best.”
Was it a bit of a culture shock moving from industry to a university setting?
“This was a question in my interview, an anticipation of how frustrating it might be to move to the slower pace of education. I replied that I had been used to working within one of the most frustrating and sluggish organisations (sometimes) and that working in HE was not at all daunting. However, I was lucky to be working in a new university, as eager to reinvent itself as I was. When I started, I began working closely with the new Dean and together we forged a good collaboration from the start.”
Were there any particular hurdles that you had to overcome, such as training or experience?
"After a year in the job I embarked on a PGCLT (HE), which was a requisite part of the job. I was not the model student but I did find some of the insights fascinating, and the one I remember resonating most keenly with me was the notion of types of learners. In other words, that there are a spectrum of students in any university, and that some will be more challenging to teach than others. The course gave me insights into this and made me more tolerant of student behaviour and commitment."
If you’re considering making the transition from industry to academia, take a look at the academic opportunities within your chosen field to see what's on offer. http://www.jobs.ac.uk/jobs/academic-disciplines