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Developing teaching and other academic skills

Teaching | Other academic skills

Video briefing - Getting HE teaching experience, training and qualifications

Small Group Teaching

Undergraduate supervisions

Hosting small group tutorials for undergraduates is a good way to develop your teaching skills. At Cambridge University these tutorials are known as 'supervisions' and are hosted in the Cambridge colleges. Getting college supervision experience is not straightforward if you don't the University well. The best way to start is to read the University's postdoc society's (PdOC) useful guideline on 'How to Supervise' which offers insights into getting and conducting supervisions. It's also a good idea to ask people in your department who have college affiliations if there are any opportunities in their college. More information on getting familiar with Colleges is given below. Before you supervise, you need to attend a compulsory training course on supervising and small group teaching.

Postgraduate student teaching

These days many PhD students have courses as part of their degree so ask in your department if there are any teaching opportunities on doctoral programme. Some postdocs have run masterclasses, e.g. on advanced techniques, to postgrads and postdocs in their dept or University wide through PdOC Masterclass series. Use your initiative to think of a seminar or class you could run. The Graduate School of Life Science and the Schools of Physical Sciences and Technology has pots of money for training courses so contact your department postdoc representative to access these funds.

Lab demonstrating

Laboratory practical demonstration experience is useful if you want to become a lecturer. If you belong to a department that does undergraduate teaching find out who organises it. If you are working outside such a department, study relevant undergraduate course web sites to determine which courses suit your skills and experience. The University's Researcher Development Programme (RPD) runs lab demonstrating training courses.


Few postdocs are given formal lecturing duties but some manage to get experience, for example, if a lecturer is on sabbatical. The best thing to do is to let your supervisor and colleagues know that you are interested in gaining lecturing experience. Find out what courses they teach on and what the content is. You don't need to get lecturing experience at Cambridge - ask your past institutions if there is any guest lecturing you could do. Failing that, invited talks at a conference or in a department can offer useful related experience.

Teaching Training Opportunities

The Cambridge Centre for Teaching and Learning offers a great variety of courses and qualifications that could be useful if you are planning to apply for lectureships in the future.

Research supervision

Supervising research students is a great way to develop your research supervising skills which are critical if you want a long term academic career. Check with your supervisor and department for opportunities.

Colleges offer a great way to get an interdisciplinary perspective and gain teaching and committee experience. There are two main routes into Colleges for postdocs - a membership or a fellowship. See Getting involved with college life for information about both of these.

See also Teaching and research supervision, a collection of information and feedback from postdocs. The Graduate School of Life Sciences offer a useful overview on gaining teaching and outreach skills.

Other academic skills

See also Improving your academic profile, a collection of information and feedback from postdocs.

Peer review

Understanding the Peer Review process is essential to securing an academic career.

Committee work

Committee work, particularly in a College or department, can demonstrate your organisational skills and interest in supporting your local academic environment and will give you an insight into the responsibilities of senior academics. Look out for opportunities to get involved this can range from health and safety to postdoc issues. Other ways to enhance your service to the academic community is to organise a journal club or seminar series or get involved in a scholarly society.


Networking is key for success in most academic fields. Networks develop over time and require you to be proactive. Find out about the types of networks that might be useful to your career from peers to professors to journal editors - and how to network successfully. AGCAS the professional body for careers advisers - has produced a useful guideline on building academic networks.

Consultancy work

Some academics do consultancy work alongside their own research and teaching. This can be a good way of developing research skills for academia and beyond as well as providing extra salary or research funding.

Cambridge Enterprise provide support for members of the University taking on consultancy work.