Case Study: Higher Education Lecturer - Nellie

What do you do?

I'm a higher education lecturer. I teach in the English department. Aside from teaching, I also write articles, reviews and books, and mentor students.

What is your background?

Teaching is the only thing I have ever wanted to do. When I was six years old, I used to pretend to give lessons to my dolls. I loved reading, as well as the idea of teaching.

At university, I studied English literature. I taught for five years at a college and have been employed at my current university for the past 21 years.

What characteristics do you need to be successful in your job?

Lecturers need to be hard-working and willing to sacrifice a lot of their personal time. They should also be open-minded and tolerant of different viewpoints because they are constantly dealing with intelligent and opinionated colleagues or students.

What other jobs could you do using the skills from this job?

Working as a lecturer prepares you for any job that is knowledge-based and requires critical thinking skills. With an extensive background in research and writing, lecturers could become independent freelance writers. School teaching is another option that some lecturers are well-suited for. Much depends, however, on your area of expertise.

What changes will there be in the future?

Technology will change the way that some people teach (particularly in the scientific fields), but not all of us.

What are the biggest challenges in your job?

The most challenging aspects of being a lecturer are the amount of work involved and the interaction with students. I find that my workload can be difficult to keep up with, and that my job can be exhausting. Also, I am constantly forced to adapt and change myself to suit the needs of each of my students.

Are there many opportunities to enter this career?

There is competition to enter this profession but there are jobs for well-prepared, dedicated students who wish to become lecturers.

The best way to prepare yourself for this type of job is to get a good class of degree [you'll usually also need a PhD to enter this career]. You must also be persistent when looking for a position and be good at marketing yourself.

What do you like about your job?

I like being a lecturer. It's something that I get great satisfaction from because it makes me feel like I'm doing something that's worthwhile.

And I like getting to know students. Young people don't take anything for granted: they always ask why, so it keeps you on your toes all the time.

I suppose the final element that I can mention that is interesting is the flexibility of the job. I can do the work when I want to do it and I'm not governed by any particular timetables, except of course the lecture and seminar timetable.

What do you dislike about your job?

While I like my job a lot, there always seems to be just too much of it to be done. And this work increases as time goes along. We also end up doing too many things at the same time. We teach, we write, we counsel, and we deal with administration, among other things.

What advice would you give to someone interested in your career?

If you love studying and teaching then becoming a lecturer could be a good choice of career for you. It's a great way to make a living, it's very satisfying, hard work, perhaps the best job in the world!

A day in the life

7:00 am - 8:00 am

Checking and responding to email.

8:00 am - 10:00 am

Preparing for a seminar: finalising plans for how we will discuss material, making notes on ideas I want my students to think about and the points I want to make.

10:00 am - 11:00 am

Teaching a seminar.

11:00 am - 12:30 pm

Meeting with students to discuss areas of concern about essays they are writing.

12:30 pm - 1:30 pm

Eating lunch, checking email again; reading post.

1:30 pm - 3:00 pm

Attending staff meeting: discussing matters regarding our department such as recruitment and forthcoming events.

3:00 pm - 5:00 pm

Thinking about my own work: reading and writing for various projects, making notes for the book I am working on.

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