Lecturers in statistics lecture, research and teach (and are also responsible for some administration and management activity too). The balance between teaching and research will depend on whether the university he/she works in is research and/or teaching focused.
A job as a lecturer can be a highly rewarding career, with the freedom to research in one’s chosen area of interest, and the possibility of making a high impact in scientific applications.
Teaching mainly involves giving lectures to undergraduates (typically large groups of around 100+) and postgraduates (usually smaller groups). The students will either specialise in maths or statistics, or be required to study statistics as a supporting subject for other disciplines (such as biology, medicine, engineering or psychology). Lecturers typically prepare their own material and develop their own courses (in contrast to a school teacher, who has less say on what is taught and how).
Lecturers also pursue independent research. Sometimes they work in research teams, which may be multidisciplinary and/or involve collaboration across universities and even countries. Sometimes they work individually on problems that interest them in particular. Often they supervise research (PhD) students or postdoctoral research assistants. They give presentations about their research at seminars and conferences, and write about it in journal articles.
To ensure continued funding for research projects, they have to be able to make a compelling case for the award of a grant or sponsorship and submit this to a university, Research Council or industrial sponsor.
Virtually every employer will insist on a PhD in a closely-related discipline. Beyond this, evidence of research output, such as publications obtained during the PhD or in a postdoctoral position. Usually, universities will expect a prospective lecturer to have well-defined research goals.
It is usual to be able to progress directly to a permanent lectureship from a PhD – the norm is to spend some time in a postdoctoral or temporary position. Evidence of effective teaching, such as leading seminars whilst doing your PhD, will also be helpful.
Lecturers must have high motivation and independence, since they are typically left to manage themselves. Competition for lectureships is typically very high.
The starting salary for a lecturer is usually around £30,000. This rises to £40,000 or more for a senior lecturer or reader, and £50,000 or more for a professor.
As a lecturer, you will be expected to undertake research, teaching and some administration. On starting a lectureship, you usually have to pass a probationary period, which may last anything from a few months to a few years.
As part of your research, you will be expected to have papers regularly published in respected journals. It is likely that you will be encouraged to take part in professional organisations such as the Royal Statistical Society. It will be quite common for you to be expected to undertake consultancy both within the university and externally.
In terms of teaching, you will be required deliver courses to a satisfactory level, develop courses, and introduce new courses as necessary. You will supervise PhD students, research assistants, and MSc dissertations.
After some time, you will be expected to attract grant funding. You will also be encouraged to undertake continuing professional development (CPD) as a statistician and as a teacher:
- Teaching skills: universities usually provide courses. As a new lecturer, you may be required to attend several courses during your first 2 years+ and perhaps to take a higher education teaching certificate
- Statistical skills: lecturers in all subjects* have to keep up-to-date with new advances in their subjects and maintain familiarity with traditional/longstanding techniques.
Universities are divided into faculties, schools, divisions and departments which concentrate on different subject areas. Some universities have specialist departments of statistics. Statistics lecturers might teach some mathematics classes as well as statistics.
Some universities also employ statistics lecturers in other departments such as biology, engineering and psychology. Here, the statistics lecturers concentrate on applications of statistics in that particular field.
Statistics lecturers are also extensively recruited by medical (and dental) schools. They are often called lecturers in medical statistics. It is very important that medics and dentists understand how to interpret the medical data they collect. They also need to be able to interpret statistical results published by others as, for example, often occurs in reports on clinical trials of new methods of treatment and new drugs.
Advertisements for lectureships appear in newspapers; particularly important is the Times Higher Education Supplement. Advertisements also often appear in the news magazines of academic and professional organisations, including the StatsLife jobs board.
If you are seeking a lectureship, the following websites will be useful:
Advertisements for lectureships appear whenever a new lecturer is required at a university. However, the new recruit will often be expected to start at the beginning of the new academic year (usually September or October) or sometimes in January.
Progression in an academic position is highly structured. Lecturers may be promoted to senior lecturer or reader. Such a promotion typically requires research excellence, which constitutes sustained publication output in respected journals, as well as the ability to attract grant funding. Teaching excellence is also needed, such as taking a leading role in course development. The pinnacle of the academic career is a professorship, which requires international standing in the field.
The major plus point of an academic job is the relative freedom to set your own working hours, and your research agenda. The job can be very rewarding, with the opportunity to influence the direction of research in your field. It can also be varied, with time split between a variety of different teaching and research activities. There is the opportunity (and expectation) to undertake international travel to attend conferences and workshops. Benefits, such as pension schemes, are usually excellent in comparison to the private sector.
Down points include workloads that can often be high. In more senior positions there can be a tendency for time available for research to be diminished by administrative and supervisory responsibilities. Marking exams and assignments can be tedious. Pressure to produce research output and attract funding can be high (‘publish or perish!’).