Young Woman at the Civil Rights March on Washington, D.C. 28 Aug 1963. National Archives at College Park

Nicola Miller writes:

Nicola MillerThis section has been written with the UK job market in mind, but much of the advice would apply wherever you are applying. Specific guidance is given about the US. This advice will not necessarily apply to every situation so consult your supervisor and/or graduate tutor for guidance particular to you and any post you are considering. What you will find here is a distillation of the accumulated experience of RHS historians who have sat on many appointment committees.

Do you really want to be an academic?

The single most important piece of advice is to think hard about what you would like to do with the range of skills developed during your PhD, which include research, evaluating evidence, writing, teaching, organising and networking.  Academia is not the only option.  READ MORE

Preparing yourself to apply for academic jobs

The academic jobs market is most active from September to March.   If you are considering an academic career it’s a good idea to familiarise yourself with this annual cycle as soon as possible (at least in the third year of your PhD and preferably in your second year).   You should take it into account when planning your submission and viva dates. READ MORE

Your postdoctoral project

Whether you are applying for a postdoctoral grant/fellowship or a lectureship, you will have to present a convincing proposal for your next research project.  This is the most important indicator that potential funders or employers will use to assess whether you are capable of developing into an independent researcher who can make significant contributions to your field. READ MORE

Making an application:  general dos and don’ts

Bear in mind that even for temporary posts there are often 100+ applications. Try to imagine what it would be like to be on a selection panel and confronted with such a big pool of applicants. Think about how you would wish applicants to behave. READ MORE

The application letter

Most applications require an accompanying letter. Even if it is not specified, it is worth sending one (this is the one exception to the rule stated under Application Materials about not sending anything not requested).  A good application letter will go a long way to making your application stand out from the pile. The letter’s purpose is to convey your significant achievements, your suitability for the post and your commitment to it. READ MORE

Your CV

Good advice is available from university careers services about how to present your curriculum vitae; bear in mind those general points about clarity and order when applying for academic jobs.  The most common problem with a CV is that it is hard for readers quickly to identify the important information. READ MORE

Statement of significance of your research and teaching philosophy

This is now a common requirement, and one which applicants often do badly. The most common mistake is to claim too much:  everyone got it wrong before you came along. READ MORE


Job presentations

  • Follow the brief
  • Keep to time
  • Manage your own time
  • Look at the audience
  • Answer questions succinctly   READ MORE


Most interviews open with a question designed to put you at your ease, such as why you have applied for the job.  Prepare a succinct response that shows you have done your research about the department and the role and what you think you can bring to it. READ MORE

Applying to US Universities

It is not easy, but it is by no means impossible, for UK-trained historians to be appointed to posts in the United States.  If you think that you might be interested in applying there, try to plan ahead.  Spend some time at a US university during your PhD.  US resources are so vast that nearly all PhD topics, whatever your area of history, could benefit from research at one of their institutions. READ MORE

Download PDF: ECH – Careers