How to

9 Steps to Become an Academic

An academic is someone who holds an advanced degree and works as a researcher at a college or university. A career in academia is a very pleasant prospect, and you may find as you’re working or studying that you wish you could be more of an academic. This article will approach becoming an academic as more than just studying – it’s a way of life and a way of thinking.
  1. Choose your discipline. There are very few people who can study lots and lots of subjects at once. Choose a subject you’re interested in so you can focus your studies on it. This might be Chemistry, English, History or Foreign Languages. You can also do interdisciplinary research, which draws from several different disciplines. 
    Become Literate. Get hold of some books and start reading. Get books in your particular subject if possible, but also try to take in classical novels such as those of Charles Dickens. try to enjoy them, as this makes it easier to remember them. 
  3. Take in Some Culture. Not only do you need to read extensively, but culture is important too. try to make it to plays and theatre productions to sample some good old-fashioned culture. Not all of being an academic is centred around being a bookworm. 
  4. Look it up! A major part of being the academic is being curious, investigative and eager to learn. If there’s a new word you discover, a book you’d not heard of, or a snippet of history you’d like in context, look it up! In the modern age, this doesn’t necessarily mean whipping out a history book or dictionary, but it means looking around on the internet. 
    Become Fluent. A major part of being academic is extending your vocabulary and grip of language. If you notice mistakes in your grammar, take steps to correct them. If need be, invest in a grammar book. Not knowing where to put your apostrophes and what synonyms are will make people think you’re a very cheap sort of academic! You should also make a habit of checking spellings – if there’s a word you aren’t sure of the spelling for, check the dictionary. 
  6. Study. If you’re in work, see if you can enroll on some part-time college or university courses. If you’re in school, try to really get into your classes, and get involved in extra study-based activities. Studying properly is another key to being academic! Some topics, like the sciences, require hands-on work that you can only really get at a college or school, which makes it extra important if you have made science your topic of choice. In order to become an academic, you will need to earn an advanced degree. In the US, these are, in order of completion, associate’s degree, bachelor’s degree (awarded for completion of undergraduate study), master’s degree, and doctorate (awarded after graduate or postgraduate study). 
  7. Apply yourself. Keep working at it. If you want to really be an academic, keep focused and keep studying. Losing interest for a while makes it a much harder mountain to climb when you start again. 
  8. Get a job in it. If you’re really committed to the academic way of life, get an academic job. Apply at colleges and universities. The chances of doing this are very small, with only about 1 teaching job available for every 10 PhDs produced. (This is because every academic typically trains around 10 new PhDs, as in a pyramid scheme). The rest typically spend up to 10 years wandering between low paid and low security short term contracts, before quitting and starting a new career at the bottom rung, such as school teaching. 
  9. Seek tenure. The ultimate achievement for a US academic is to achieve tenure, which means you can never lose your job without just cause. The purpose of tenure is to allow academics to pursue research and education without fear of losing their job because someone does not agree with their findings or teachings.

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