Higher Education Lecturer Careers

How to become higher education lecturer

What does a higher education lecturer do?

Higher education lecturers teach students aged 18 and over in universities and colleges. They also conduct research and have administrative duties.

Lecturers teach students on courses leading to a range of qualifications, such as: BTEC/SQA higher national awards; degrees; postgraduate awards; and professional qualifications. They deliver lectures to as many as 400 students. Lecturers also deliver seminars to smaller groups of students.

Other duties usually include:

  • preparing lectures and practical demonstrations
  • setting and marking assignments and exams
  • assessing students’ work and their progress
  • acting as personal tutor to a number of students
  • conducting research (often on behalf of sponsors) with the aim of publication
  • assisting the work of new lecturers
  • dealing with course applications.


What's the working environment like for a higher education lecturer?

There are no set hours for many higher education lecturers. In a new university (an institution that became a university in or after 1992) full-time lecturers would not formally teach students for more than 18 hours a week. Teaching hours vary in other institutions.

Many lecturers work part-time.

Depending on the subject taught, most lecturers work indoors in lecture theatres, halls, seminar and tutorial rooms, or in laboratories, workshops or hospital wards.

What does it take to become a higher education lecturer?

To be a higher education lecturer you should:

  • have a keen interest in and in-depth knowledge of the subject you teach
  • keep up to date with developments in your subject
  • be able to get on well with a wide range of students
  • have the confidence to lecture to large groups of students
  • be enthusiastic and able to motivate students
  • be able to express yourself clearly, both in speech and in writing
  • be well organised
  • be interested in the welfare of individual students
  • have good research skills.

To work in this profession you will be expected to have a good degree in the subject you're interested in teaching. A good degree is usually a 1st or a 2:1. In some instances you may need a Master's or a PhD.

When it comes to showing that you're up to the job, teaching experience will be a huge benefit. The more ability you have to teach as well as practical knowledge in your subject area, the more advantageous you'll appear to employers. 

Higher education lecturer career opportunities

Lecturing can be a very competitive area to get into. However, some subjects have a shortage of lecturers. 

There are opportunities to work abroad.

Promotions are possible. In old universities this can be to senior lecturer, head of department and head of faculty. In new universities and colleges it can be to senior lecturer and principal lecturer. The number of such posts has reduced in recent years. Competition for them is very strong.

Some experienced lecturers take on extra work such as: consultancy; writing; editing; broadcasting; and conference work.

Further information

If you would like to learn more about becoming a higher education lecturer that does not appear on Hotcourses, further information can be found below.

Lifelong Learning UK (LLUK) (formerly FENTO)
5th Floor
St. Andrew’s House
18-20 St. Andrew Street
Tel: 020 7936 5798

The Higher Education Academy
Innovation Way
York Science Park
YO10 5BR
United Kingdom
Tel: 01904 717500

Association of University Teachers (AUT)
Egmont House
25-31 Tavistock Place
Tel: 020 7670 9700

The University and College Lecturers' Union
27 Britannia Street
Tel: 020 7837 3636