Tom Dunne Comfortably numb

A question that frequently pops up here is how you become a lecturer. I though I would share my experience on how I did it and encourage other lecturers, especially in the non-technical fields, to contribute also. The intention is to sitcky this thread once there are a few different perspectives.

Getting a post in lecturing involves two major components - academic qualifications and experience.

The bare minimum for getting a post in lecturing is an honours degree. As you would imagine, the more qualifications you have, the better. In my own experience (lecturing at an Institute of Technology in computers), a Masters the minimum, a PhD is preferred.

From discussions both here on and with fellow lecturers, qualifications for lecturing in a University seem to depend on the institution itself - some require a PhD, some require you to be studying for a PhD, others require you are involved in research. The jury is still out on this one.

Which brings me on to the next requirement - experience. The job spec for a technical discipline in an Institute of technology stipulates that a lecturer must have at least three years post grad experience. That date is measured from the date of conferring. This requirement does not appear to be as prevalent in Humanities.

Working in the field you will be lecturing in is a pre-requisite, as is lecturing/teaching experience. Getting this lecturing experience can actually be relatively straight forward - most colleges advertise around late August/early September for part-time staff. Lecturing 2-4 hours per week in the evening will most certainly enhance your chances of landing a full time lecturing position. Getting experience in your day job as a trainer/instructor would also be a good path to take.

Permanent positions appear to be few and far between, especially in the computing/technical fields. Positions offered tend to be temporary wholetime and pro-rata, the latter being variable hours over the course of a semester. From reading job advertisements in the papers, Universities appear to initially offer a one year contract, though it again depends on the institution.

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ardmacha Registered User

I think this thread should clearly indicate whether people are talking about ITs or Universities. Lecturers in Universities do not get 18 weeks holidays, more like 6 weeks alas.


Can we please keep this thread for providing solid advice for potential lecturers. Questions can be posted in other threads. Ideally I want this thread to become a knowledge base for potential lecturers. Therefore I will be deleting questions or irrelevant posts from this thread. Please feel free to post here if you are a lecturer and wish to add your own experience of how you got into the job. Thanks for your patience. Mod

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Aido c Registered User

Had this on another thread - probably more relevant to there, relevant to obtaining IT lecturing post anyway:

Obviously when you apply to an IT, it is a public competition so there has to be measurable’s on there, 2.1 better than 2.2, PhD better than MSc etc. etc.

That said, I think that there is a push now to hire people with life experience. 10 years experience and at least a little international flavour goes a long way. They will and they do push you into MSc's & PhD's after you are hired, but this is stuff you have plenty of time for anyway, and at least your interests will have matured and gained valuable industry insight. Life experience is something they cannot give you so they are now looking for this when you come through the door.

They also want natural speakers, motivators, people who can grab and hold the attention of a room full of these new students.

There are a couple of things causing this change:
1) Student attendance - its crap right now, and they are not just blaming the students, they are saying - what is the lecturer doing, remember this is not second or primary school, you cannot just call the Garda if they don’t show up.

2) The internet - Information is more easily available weakening your hand if all you put forward is your research ability, information is everywhere now.

3) Look at your students, more independent, more demanding. Even turn on children’s TV in the morning, you will see 4 or 5 channels competing for their attention, juggling, singing, drawing and playing. Flashing graphics of animals and places from all corners of the globe. The kids sit there largely only mildly impressed. Try to picture this child in 15 years - how are you going to keep his attention?

3) Motivation - When I entered college, it was succeed or back to the farm, succeed or be unemployed, succeed or emigrate. Their motivation now a days is much more subtle, you have to convince them why they should become an accountant or technician, when they could walk out that door and in 3 months be earning a grand a week block laying or in a few years 45k a year being a Garda. Those jobs did not exist when I went into college.

4) Industry symbiosis - I cannot overstate this. They want to see lecturers working together with industry. You might be able to fool a room full of first year accountancy students into thinking you know your stuff. But in seconds a Managing director of a accountancy firm will figure you out. He will not want to see any of your graduates.

5) Money is key now, in the old days you might have earned 14k out of college; a company could afford to almost retrain the student. Now college graduates get a lot more, they need to be productive within 6 months of graduating. You need to work with industry to make this happen.

6) Class sizes are bigger now too to pay your wages.

Look, it’s a great job, don’t fret about whether you have a 2.1 or a 2.2 or 1.1 or 1.2, and don’t tumble into a PhD just for the sake of it. Certainly I would not suggest trying to go from a PhD straight into lecturing. Forget about lecturing for the sake of lecturing, use your single years to get out in industry and make a name for yourself. Try getting some international experience, if you have time do a taught MSc while you are at it. Then when you get married and settle down and quality of life becomes important again. Time with the kids etc., and then apply for the lecturing post. That life experience is gold dust when you are trying to grab the attention of a room full of kids. You just see all the little ears pop up. They are not stupid, they will see it in your eyes and they will believe you when you tell them "When I was a single man, I was working in London earning 60k a year as an accountant'' they will then want that, tell me what in a PhD can compare to that level of motivation.

Astarte said it above and I agree, there is no better job when you can do it. But when you cannot do it, you can’t do it. You can’t learn life experience out of a book, and then it’s a great opportunity of a good life wasted.

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ruth cannon Registered User

If you are interested in lecturing in Law you may find this post helpful; for those who are not here is a brief summary of the issues I discuss so that you can follow them up if you want or otherwise ignore this post:
1. Ph.D requirement now strongly desirable even for temporary lecturing post, moving towards essential for a permanent post;
2. Because of (1), less attention on the taught LLM - you may even (if constrained by time or funding) opt to skip this stage entirely (though I think that you will lose out, not necessarily on the employment level, but in other ways, as a result);
3. Professional qualifications no longer as relevant - I would even go so far as to say no longer relevant at all
4. in relation to publications, articles in refereed academic (rather than student) journals are what count.

I should say at the outset that I have never sat on a lecturing interview panel in my life and the comments below are based on my experience (and what I have heard on the grapevine) of applying for lecturing jobs rather than handing them out!

In this area the criteria for a lecturing post have changed a lot since I first entered college in 1991. At the time the focus was on professional qualifications, a Ph.D was relatively rare, and those lecturers with Ph.Ds had usually acquired them after obtaining a permanent lecturing position.

Most lecturers had LLM degrees or the equivalent and one factor in selecting staff was the perceived quality of the LLM programme to which the degree related. It was also desirable to take the LLM in an institution other than that studied in at undergraduate level. In 1991 the most highly regarded LLM degrees were the Oxford BCL (believe it or not, a Master's degree), the Cambridge LLM, the London University LLM or the LSE LLM. Master's degrees from Bruges or Florence were also highly regarded. We did have one lecturer without an LLM, but with considerable research experience; she had worked for a number of years with the Law Reform Commission and despite the absence of an LLM degree was an excellent lecturer and produced research of the highest quality.

Things started to change in or about 2000, when the Ph.D replaced the professional qualification as the sine qua non of a law lecturer. Before then, to have a professional qualification or to be studying for one (plus the LLM) was the key requirement. After 2000, the focus switched to the Ph.D rather than the professional qualification. This trend is likely to continue, in the universities at least, since funding awarded is based on attracting research postgrads, and staff with high level research degrees are essential for this.

You may want to take this into account in deciding how your (or your parent's) money for postgrad study should be spent. You may even want to consider skipping the LLM stage entirely, if you can get onto a Ph.D program or a research master's program providing for a Ph.D upgrade after a year or so However, I found a taught LLM abroad invaluable from point of view of broadening my view of law - it was also great fun. Once you have your Ph.D, it is difficult to go back and do an LLM later (though there were a few Europeans in my class who were doing just that!).

As regards the professional qualifications, it is expensive (and extremely time-consuming) to combine these with a Ph.D, though my view is that you should try to get these qualifications before starting a lecturing job in law so that you have options for the future if you wish to switch career. I also think that professional knowledge and experience is invaluable in teaching and researching in law, though because of the financial pressure regarding research this view is out of fashion at the moment. Of course, once employed as a lecturer, you may be able to negotiate with the institution who employs you to allow you time off, for instance, to study for the Bar (of course, if King's Inns brings back the evening course, this may not be necessary).

If it is any consolation, people with up to 10 years' experience or so in lecturing jobs are now under significant pressure to do Ph.Ds. I am currently struggling with one myself and (despite an excellent supervisor) wish I had got to grips with it at a younger age when my brain cells were fresher!

While you are studying for your Ph.D, try to build up your part-time teaching experience. Teaching experience is another factor that will be looked at even for a temporary full-time position. Again, often the focus is on length of teaching experience rather than quality, so better to start early. There is a focus also (often totally misguided) on the institutions where you have taught.

Although the standard of teaching in the private sector is in my view very high, the public sector does not always like to admit this. if you plan to apply to a public college and wish to avoid private/public snobbery, you may wish to combine your part-time lecturing in the private sector with (relatively ill-paid) seminars in one of the public institutions. Again, teaching law to law students is looked on by interviewers for law lecturing posts as preferable to teaching law to non-law students. I don't necessarily agree with this but this is just the way it is, so if you are doing some of this (again, well-paid and often very challenging and satisfying teaching) try to combine it with the dreaded seminars.

Ideally, you would do some teaching in the general area of your Ph.D and some in one other area - this shows you can work in more than one subject. My advice is not to do more than 4 hours' teaching a week during your Ph.D unless you absolutely have to for financial reasons. Teaching and all that goes with it can be very time consuming, particularly in the era of email. I would recommend starting with seminars only for your first year of your Ph.D/M.Litt and then move to lecturing as well for one of the two subsequent years.

In relation to publications, the focus, for better or worse, is often on the quality of the journal rather than the quality of the article. This presents a problem in Ireland since we have few refereed journals. Articles in the Irish Jurist would be highly thought of. I would also say the DULJ and the Northern Ireland Legal Quarterly. However, for a non-permanent position, articles in non-refereed practitioners journals and indeed student publications would also be relevant. The most user efficient way of dealing with the issue of publications is to get an article or two out of your Ph.D chapters as you are writing it, maybe also to get an article on another legal subject to show diversity. Get a few people (e.g. your Ph.D supervisor) to read the article in advance. Although you may be tempted to write a book (as there are so many readily available publishing contracts out there), the points a prospective starter lecturer applicant will earn for this in academic circles will not necessarily reflect the work put in. Believe me, I know!

The final thing that you have to do is network. Present papers at conferences like the IALT conference, at student workshops. Again, use your Ph.D for this. Go to book launches. Be polite and pleasant. Show that you are out there, and that you are looking for a job, or will be when you have finished your Ph.D (but you wouldn't say no to one in the meantime!). Part-time lecturing is useful for this. Talk to your supervisor about lecturing as well - they may be able to give you useful advice about when positions are likely to come up. You will also need them as a referee.

I hope this is of some assistance, and best of luck.

Ruth Cannon
(Dept. Legal Studies, DIT)

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Dagon Registered User

Very good thread, thanks for the info Tom. I will add my little bit, based on my experience of lecturing in an Institute of Technology.

For those who are going to do a MSc. by research, my advice is to try and get part-time lecturing hours. You may be busy on your thesis, but the experience is very valuable should you ever wish to go down the lecturing route in the future.

Sometimes it isn't easy to get hours, and you'll need to establish the correct contacts in the upper echelons of whatever school you're in. The best thing sometimes is just to go and meet the head of your department and have a chat about what you'd like to do. Give them your CV and let them know you're available should any hours come up. If you know lecturers and course heads personally in the school this will be of particular value as they are usually the ones who are aware of what hours are/will be available, and a lot of the time they need people at short notice if a lecturer goes on sick leave or if there is a maternity leave half-way through the year.

After doing lecturing part-time, you may be lucky enough to take a class right through from the start of the academic year to the end. If this is the case, you'll have:
- Worked on developing the course syllabus
- Developed teaching methods
- Formulated a means of continual assessment
- Worked in labs / practical sessions
- Set and marked final exams
.. as well as a host of other stuff that I don't have time to write down.

Years after you've finished your PHd/MSc and with a couple of years (or preferably three, as Tom has stated) of post-graduate experience under your belt, you shouldn't have any major difficulties in securing part-time hours in lecturing. Just don't expect to step straight into a secure, full-time lecturing position, and you won't be disappointed (for example, if you earny 40k + in an IT position, you will take quite a big drop in salary, and it isn't going to rise very quickly unless you do other work during the summer). I know people who have done part-time hours and pro-rata stuff for years upon years, and they are still waiting for that full-time contract. On the other hand, if you are quite happy to accept what you get, and work part-time with the odd contract (read: summer pay) it's a great career. Especially if you are the kind of person who can't hack the measly 20 days holidays of the corporate world, and need more time for your interests/travel/alternative employment.

soitgoes Registered User

Great thread.

I'm a graduate in English lit, currently doing an MA in Cultural Studies and contemplating going on to Phd. But if I want to lecture in the subject eventually, I wonder if it wouldn't be better for my skills as a teacher to travel and try and publish first, rather than launch straight into more reasearch.

Anyone with any experience of lecturing in something like English or Philosophy want to share how they got into it?

onewoman Registered User

Hi there,

Soitgoes, I'm a recent humanities PhD and making my way in lecturing. Whether you decide to publish now or hold off for a while doesn't matter hugely right now: the important thing is to get lecturing experience.

Most humanities departments have a policy of encouraging (even relying on!) their postgrads (particularly PhD candidates) to assist in lecturing. Often this means giving tutorials, but it can also take the form of lecturing basic survey courses, or if you're lucky, getting the opportunity to develop your own units for more advanced undergrads.

The key is to let your supervisor or head know that you're keen to get some lecturing experience, and generally to be involved with the department. Offer to assist on a course that your supervisor teaches. Often, research students get so engrossed in their work (and have no real reason to be in the dept on a regular basis) that they simply aren't around enough for people to think of them when lecturing/teaching roles come up.

Of course, publishing is much more important as you progress up the academic ladder. However, the jobs that humanities people almost always start off with are vacancies that have arisen because somebody is on sabatical for a year -- and thus a couple of courses need to be covered. Therefore, they need (and will only pay) you to teach, first and foremost.

Basically, then, I suggest that you get cracking on the PhD ASAP because what it requires is an ability to get a good thesis written while networking in your dept and possibly beyond to get a manageable amount of teaching experience over the 3 or 4 years. It's best not to delay if you're serious about lecturing -- and it may be hard work but it's rewarding.

Best of luck!

PS: forgot to add that of course you get paid hourly for any teaching/lecturing undertaken as a postgrad, so there's that incentive too!

Kate253 Registered User

any thoughts or advice on lecturing in the social sciences? i'm a professional social worker for 10 years now. what might i need to do?

marieKY Registered User

I am currently doing a research masters and have been lecturing marketing, management, Marketing analysis and Business part time for almost 2 years. I really want to get into the lecturing but I do not think a phd is for me at the moment. I have 6 months left to finish the Mphil or I can transfer to a phd.
I know that for a university that you pretty much have to have a phd. I am still confused as to whether you need to have one for the institutes of technology?

The only job I want to do is lecturing but I know a phd is not for me right now. Does anyone know if it is easy to go back and do a phd once you are lecturing?



ana_conlon Registered User

[quote= On the other hand, if you are quite happy to accept what you get, and work part-time with the odd contract (read: summer pay) it's a great career. Especially if you are the kind of person who can't hack the measly 20 days holidays of the corporate world, and need more time for your interests/travel/alternative employment.

I’m currently studying my masters in Digital Media and I want a career change badly!! I would like to get into lecturing/teaching/training/ or maybe even working with teenagers in community projects...

I'm planning on volunteering my time to gain experience....Is this a good idea ???

The quote above basically describes me I would be happy with school term employment I don’t need or want anything too secure. would quite happily cover maternity leave or do temp teaching just don’t know where to start looking.....

Lega Registered User

I have two interviews coming up over the next few weeks for lecturing jobs in IT's. I don't have any teaching experience although I do have 3 years industry experience and a Masters in the subject area. Can anyone give me any tips on what type of questions to expect? thanks

NextSteps Registered User

Lega said:
I have two interviews coming up over the next few weeks for lecturing jobs in IT's. I don't have any teaching experience although I do have 3 years industry experience and a Masters in the subject area. Can anyone give me any tips on what type of questions to expect? thanks

In my experience a lecturer has three responsibilities: teaching, administration (such as chairing a programme), and research. You should be able to demonstrate competence in all three.

Car16 Registered User

Hi Ruth

I qualified as a solicitor in 2006, i have 6 months post qualification experience. I did not find the area of practice rewarding and i have branched into Insurance for the past year and a half. I have always been interested in lecturing in law and i am worried that i have restricted my chances of pursuing a career in lecturing due to the fact that i am not practising at the moment. I also have an LLB Post Graduate Degree from UCC and a Diploma in Family Mediation.

I would value your opinion. Thanks

Tom Dunne Comfortably numb

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