I thought it might be useful for those considering a career in academia but not actually involved in it yet to see what I do on an average working day. Then they can decide whether the working lifestyle appeals or not. Of course there is no such thing as the ‘average working day’ in academic life; every day is different. I do two sorts of work: those days I go into university and those days I work from home. So this is what a day in my life looks like….
This is a typical Tuesday in Manchester!
5.50am get up, pack bags up to about 10 kg of weight. Prepare breakfast.
6.30 catch train to Manchester, eat breakfast around Wolverhampton, watch sun come up in Stafford! Start work about 7.15, doing anything from marking, preparing notes for seminars, reading over lectures, editing other people’s work, reading in preparation for next book or studying papers ready for meetings.
9am arrive in Manchester, walk the mile to my building. Wait ages for computer to fire up and then rush to answer emails. Fight colleagues for use of the photocopier, hoping that it doesn’t break down before I have finished.
10am deliver lecture on ‘Cowboys and Indians’, a new course, so completely untried, fingers crossed that the powerpoint doesn’t do anything funny!
10.55 deal with numerous student queries about forgotten deadlines, lost work, absences etc.
11am and 12pm two back to back seminars for ‘Cowboys and Indians’, tiring, especially if the students are not very forthcoming but very rewarding if they have been inspired by your lecturing.
12.55pm Quickly grab a sip of water and a banana, by which time I am starving!
1pm I take a seminar for first year course run by another lecturer. This means less admin work to do, and less preparation as the course ran in an identical format last year, so I just repeat seminars given this time last year.
2pm office hour: I finally get chance to sit down, have a drink and eat lunch. Because it’s an office hour I have to be available to students, so my door is open (literally) and I get all sorts of questions. One or more of my third year dissertation students usually pops in to ask advice on the direction of their work. This is one of the nicest parts of my job, working on a one to one basis with the final year students.
3pm Last seminar of the day, my third year Modern America group, who are usually talkative and happy to ask questions and discuss among themselves.
4pm Dash to get the train home, often via the library which is on the way. Unless, that is, I have a meeting scheduled, in which case going home is pushed back. On the journey back if I am feeling lively I’ll do more work, if not I’ll allow myself to relax with the local free paper.
6.30pm Arrive home. Do one final check of emails for the day, deal with anything really urgent, and then go ‘off duty’ for the evening.
For many academics the teaching timetable is not as tight as this, but I try to pack all my teaching into just a few days at university so I can dedicate the rest of my time to working on preparation and research at home. If you live near your university it’s probably nicer to teach over three or four days with lots of spare time during each day to do admin work and meet with colleagues. But this is the way I do it and I am so lucky to have landed a job I love. If you like the sound of this sort of day, then lecturing could be for you!