Seven Requirements to get an Academic Job.

Ancient Historians are struggling to get their first post after they finish the PhD. The qualified candidates are too many, while the available jobs are always scant. In a previous article I insisted that the one prerequisite for getting a placement in a university is that the applicant should be a “good fit”. Even if this is essentially true for all cases, we should not forget that the competition is stiff and that the prospective candidates should meet also a set of other requirements.

1)      Publish or perish! Although this rule is not a strict prerogative, it would be advisable that the applicant has already published a couple of reviews and a couple of articles. The most prestigious the journal, the more chances s/he has to be noticed. Publishing in edited collections is also acceptable, if the editor is a well known scholar.

2)      In addition, a contract with a university press to publish the thesis could be very helpful. Be careful not to get contracts with vanity presses! They can do more harm than good!

3)      Teaching experience is a must. A few lectures as a visiting scholar, or a tutorial as a PhD student may prove your abilities as a teacher and give you adequate experience that will allow you to face the burden of full time teaching later.

4)      You need to prove that you can network and organize events. Therefore, you should volunteer to co-organize the Ancient History or Classics Seminar in your department, in which you can invite scholars from other universities. Alternatively, you should co-organize a conference on a topic of your choice. If all goes well, you may even manage to put together an edited volume.

5)      The ability to raise funds is probably one of the most important assets you can exhibit. Any type of scholarships, grants or fellowships you acquired over the years should be highlighted. Departments are especially interested in candidates who can bring regular revenue; thus compensating for their salary. Excellent scholars tend to underestimate the power of money and focus only on their publication record. I am certain, though, that hiring committees will take a different view. Do not forget that universities are also business organizations with annual budgets, accountants and managers.

6)      In the current climate you will need to prove your ability to become a competent administrator. Once you have acquired a permanent post in any university, you will be asked to perform administrative tasks. These may involve compiling grades, or organizing the teaching schedule, or arranging for exchanges with the Erasmus program, or coordinating modules, or…. anything really. As the amount of time we spend administering the department increases, so do the job requirements. Therefore, if you manage to hold a part time job as a clerk or administrator in any organization (even for the briefest of times), it will be considered an asset.

7)      In addition to the above, you will need to develop a pleasant personality to match your new position in life. A long list of publications is not the only prerogative to get the much desired post. You will definitely need excellent communication skills, a charming disposition and an ease in making new friends. In order to achieve this you should stop reading blogs, stop commenting on facebook photos and abstain from your continuous string of tweets. Get out of the house and go to the nearest pub!

As most academics are also perfectionists, I should offer a word of caution. Try not to get overqualified, while you attempt to meet the above requirements. If you end up having more publications than your future Head of Department or you gain more grants than senior scholars, you will probably be rejected.

Economic historian and numismatic consultant


  1. In case you are talking about requirements for an academic job in Greece, I think most of us know that one also needs to “know the right people”…

  2. I am not sure what part of the world you are in but in the UK the British Library will take care of publishing your PhD thesis in the UK.

    • Hi Mark,
      the British Library will certainly host your monograph AFTER it is published. However, it is not responsible for the editing, printing or distribution of any of the PhD thesis written in the UK. By the way, I have finished my PhD in UCL and I worked in Exeter University. I am currently in Leicester University.

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