What Are Academic Careers?

Generally, academic careers refer to positions in colleges, universities, elementary schools and secondary schools. Obtaining a college degree in most any area can typically prepare students for some academic careers. Read on to find out more about academic careers.

Academic Careers Overview

Elementary, secondary and postsecondary educational institutions offer a diverse range of opportunities through which to pursue academic careers. In some cases, academic careers are sought by those already involved in a primary occupation, such as doctors or engineers who take on a second career as an instructor within their field. Academic work generally involve roles in administration, teaching or counseling.

Important Facts About Academic Careers

Common Specializations Teaching: elementary school, secondary school, postsecondary school, special education; Administrative: supervisory/executive management; Counseling: youth guidance, mental health, career and educational planning
Key Skills Communicate clearly, have a strong background in their field of relevant expertise, work cooperatively while also serving in leadership roles
Professional Certifications State certification is required to teach at public schools; academic counselor positions may require one or more field-specific certifications
Work Environment Academic professionals must work effectively with students and colleagues alike

Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics


At the pre-collegiate level, principals, deans and superintendents serve as the primary administrators within academic institutions. College and university presidents, vice-presidents, deans and chancellors are examples of administrative roles at postsecondary academic levels. Archive, research and library administrators are also often found at some larger institutions. Other administrative careers offered by colleges and universities include positions in admissions offices, financial aid offices and registrar offices.


Teaching at the elementary and secondary school levels is a popular choice for those who wish to pursue academic careers. Entering the field in this way generally requires a bachelor's degree and a license in the state of intended employment. Full-time postsecondary teaching positions usually require a doctoral degree in a field related to the subject being taught. Excellent teachers sometimes pursue further career advancement by becoming the head of their department. Teachers instruct students in classroom settings or through online distance learning programs. Psychology, mathematics, health science, engineering, history and language are just a few examples of subjects that qualified individuals may decide to teach.


A career in academic counseling can focus not only on educational and career development but on social development as well. School counselors at the elementary level evaluate students and assist with creating programs and curricula to develop personal and academic skills. Guidance counselors are typically employed at the high school level and help students decide on further education or career options. Postsecondary counselors help enrolled students to achieve the degrees or certifications that they seek, and most colleges and universities also offer career placement services, providing information on available careers in a student's area of study.

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