Advanced search
What skills do you need to become an academic?
Now Playing: What skills do you need to become an academic?
The group discuss what skills and experiences are needed to successfully pursue an academic career.



Cindy: Although not obviously, as we know, all postgraduate students are going to go on and be academics, I think it will be interesting to think for a minute about what skills you do need to be an academic when maybe the assumption is they will leave academia and maybe they won’t. And so any ideas on skills you think you need?

The list is absolutely endless. I think that people’s idea of being an academic is giving a lecture, writing an article and then going home to bed, when really it is a job which differs every single day. I mean, in terms of communication you’re giving lectures, you’re talking in seminars, you’re talking in conferences, you’re talking to your colleagues, you want to go to meetings within universities where you are talking to administrators and other members of staff. And so communication skills, written skills, also counselling skills; you’re going to have students coming to you with a wide variety of problems and you’re not going to be dealing with them in a professional capacity but you are going to be asked for your advice. And you’re going to be asked for advice on a wide range of subjects. You are also required to be an administrator; you are also going to do an awful lot of paperwork. And you are also going to need time management skills because that paperwork is going to be coming when you’ve got students lining up at your door because their dissertations are due in and they want advice. But also someone else has just sat an exam and then you have got 200 papers you need to mark and you need to do all this and make sure it gets in on time. And so the job of an academic, I don’t think you can put down to ‘it’s this’ – it’s everything.’ And so I think when people look at this and say ‘why do I need to do skills training? Because I want to go on and become an academic.’ I think there isn’t anything in the joint skills thing or the training that isn’t useful to be an academic because it is a job which tests every aspect of you.

Debbie: I’m not at all convinced that the range of skills that you need to be an academic are not exactly the same as the range of skills you need to be in any other job really – professional qualifications aside really. I mean everything Ross has said: communication, time management, creativity and a hell of a lot of administration. One thing I would say that is interesting about academia particularly is the rate at which the field is changing and the range of responsibilities that academics are being asked to take on. An example is to what extent should academics be involved in skills training. You know, are they trainers? Is that a different thing from being teachers? And you know is that something that as academics you need to be learning how to do? And is it appropriate to be asking academics? Is that too much to put on them? You know, these are big issues. And, you know, meanwhile the research culture is speeding up and speeding up; the RAE is putting more and more pressure on academics. The major thing is flexibility and, you know, needing to bend with the times. I mean maybe that is the major thing that academics need apart from a great research project, funding and three pairs of hands…