Helena de Anstiss

I began my academic career as a sessional (casual) university teacher. Two of my former university lecturers called me after I finished my degree and asked me whether I would be interested in casual teaching. I said “hell yes”. Once I was in the university system, other lecturers got to know me and offered me more work. This went on for about 12 years until I was asked to apply for a full-time, permanent position. It was a tough decision because I loved where I was working but at the same time, I needed a change. So I applied for the position and here I am 🙂


Top 5 characteristics of people who work in your field.

Each discipline is different but in my field, people are generally:

  • Passionate about their work
  • Goal oriented
  • Hardworking
  • Determined to succeed
  • Keen networkers


Top 5 skills relevant to working in your industry

Every academic career is different. Most academics have teaching and research roles but a small number have teaching only, or research only, roles. Regardless, they all need the following skills:

  • Toughness – the work of academics is regularly scrutinised and criticised by their peers.  The research papers they submit for publication are criticised and rejected by editors. The project proposals they submit for funding are criticised and rejected by funding bodies.  Academics therefore need to be able to actively engage with criticism – they need to be strong enough to accept what is valid and confident enough to defend what is not.
  • Communication and presentation skills – most academics have teaching roles and are assessed on the quality of their teaching by students. They therefore need to be comfortable and reasonably good at public speaking.
  • People skills – academics need to be able to engage well with a diverse range of people including students, colleagues, research participants, funding bodies, professional bodies and others.
  • Self-directed – from the beginning of their careers, academics need to be able to set their own goals and direction.
  • Time management skills – academic work involves teaching, research and administration roles, some of which can become all-consuming and spill over into their evenings and weekends.


What education / experience is necessary for your role?

Entering academia almost always requires a doctoral level qualification e.g., a PhD. In order to be accepted into a doctoral program, you will need an undergraduate degree and a postgraduate degree – either an Honours or Masters degree. In some fields such as Social Work, you may be able to use your professional experience in the field to start your academic career as a tutor. However, if you want to become a lecturer or above, you will need a doctoral level qualification and research experience. In some fields, professional experience is highly valued and when coupled with a doctoral qualification, can give you a competitive edge.