Getting an Academic Research Position

A career at the cutting edge of knowledge in academic research can be extremely rewarding. You’ll be working in an area that passionately interests you and connecting with like-minded people around the world. Not only that, it allows you a high degree of independence and flexibility in your working life.

But there are also downsides to consider. Securing a research position is far from easy, whatever career stage you’re at. The competition is notoriously fierce, with the number of applicants far outnumbering available positions. The odds may be low, but the positions are there to be filled – by applicants who are tenacious and, above all, well-prepared.

“I think the most challenging aspect is the mismatch between demand and supply. Actually, there are more people looking for academic research positions than there are positions in research institutions or universities” – Nowsheen Goonoo, Postdoctoral Research Fellow, University of Mauritius

The stark realities…

Nature Portfolio conducted a survey in 2022 which confirmed the scale of the problems faced by academic job seekers. 75% of researchers (n = 476) find getting a job challenging, irrespective of career stage, region, field of study or place of work. 97% of respondents (n = 485) considered the skills required in getting a job important.

Looking at the detail, 44% of purchasers (those in charge of making training decisions for staff, n = 476) reported that their researchers find understanding the requirements of the job challenging. However, only 27% of the researchers themselves said this was a challenge, suggesting a misunderstanding about what is expected of them. Other significant challenges for researchers included knowing what jobs are available to them (52%) and adapting their CV to a particular job (47%).

Fig. 1: Ranked main challenges a researcher faces when getting a job, as identified by end-users (n = 260) and purchasers (n = 210). Interviewees were allowed to choose a maximum of 3 challenges from a predefined list.

Key areas that researchers wanted to learn more about included attending an interview (50%) and looking for positions that suit their skills (37%).

How to make a daunting task easier

With your career - and future - at stake, it’s immensely important to face potential job search challenges head-on from the outset.

With this in mind, Nature Masterclasses have created a highly practical new course to help researchers in the natural sciences find and get that next research position in their careers.

Getting an Academic Research Position helps individual researchers create a more scientific-based, targeted methodology to their search, whether as a new postdoc or in a new faculty role.

Packed with practical advice and tips, the course offers a roadmap for understanding yourself and why you want an academic research position. With this understanding, you’ll then learn to:

  • Understand how to find potential career opportunities that align with your personal attributes, desires, and goals.
  • Learn how to apply for positions in a way that will highlight your strongest attributes and most relevant qualities.
  • Learn how to present yourself authentically and effectively during all stages of the interview process, giving you the best possible chance of success.
  • Understand how to assess whether a job you’re offered is suitable and choose between competing job offers.

Developed by Experts

“You get the perspective from many different people working in different environments and in different positions and can apply their advice to your career.”

C. Daniela Robles-Espinoza, Assistant Professor, National Autonomous University of Mexico

Getting an Academic Research Position was created and refined by a diverse international team of academic researchers with hiring experience, Nature journal Editors and career development experts including:

  • Hanah Margalit, Professor, The Hebrew University of Jerusalem ·
  • David Payne, Managing Editor, Careers & Supplements, Springer Nature 
  • Gaynor Roberts, Head of Continuing Professional Development, Springer Nature 
  • Liane Siu Slaughter, Career and Communication Coach, Clear Water Science Consulting 
  • Laura Stark, Director of Graduate Career Services, Graduate School of Arts and Sciences, Harvard University

The course also includes video interviews offering insights from other experienced academics and industry researchers, including: ·

Key course features

Getting an Academic Research Position is self-paced, consisting of 4 modules with 9 hours of learning and a course certificate upon completion. The course contains bite-sized lessons and provides an accessible, dip in and out format.

These features give researchers total control over their learning environment and enables them to add crucial skills without disrupting or slowing down their day-to-day work.

Supporting researchers throughout the life cycle

Getting an Academic Research Position provides researchers with skills crucial to their continuing career success. Further useful companion courses include Networking for Researchers and Scientific Writing and Publishing.

"I think the hardest part about finding a research position is aligning your skills, interests, and values into a perfect job that you’re willing to apply to.”

Jack Leeming, Senior Editor, Careers, Nature

In today’s competitive research environment, it’s vital to invest in researchers’ skills and training. Nature Masterclasses offer researchers the opportunity to gain the success they desire and deserve.

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