What is it like to be a University Lecturer

1. Please introduce yourself
My name is Mincho Minev. I am 30 years young =) and I have a PhD degree in Accounting and Finance. I’ve been working as a full-time assistant professor since March 2017, but I have some experience teaching accounting from the time I was a PhD candidate, so let’s say a year and a half total experience as a university teacher. I teach Introduction to accounting, Public finances, Accounting in the healthcare sector, Managerial accounting, and Financial management.

2. Why did you decide to pursue a career as a University Lecturer?
Mainly because the number of people I can get bored with accounting as a specialist is very limited but as a professor, I get a new batch every semester = )  Seriously, I can fairly say that that’s my dream job. Even during my bachelor education, I used to help my co-students to prepare for midterms and final exams by explaining them various accounting related matters. I guess it was then when I started to see myself in the role of a university professor. Some of my assistant professors also saw my potential and advised me to think in this direction. This profession gives you the opportunity to work along with some high-level specialists in your field and to teach young and optimistic minds.

3. How do you prepare for your classes?
Since legislation is often changing, I have to be sure that the information I give to the students is up to date. I always try to bring the subject I teach to live in the heads of my students, so I search for the practical inputs and various ways to explain each and every matter. Knowing that the students are different, a.k.a have a different way of thinking, I try to find various ways to present the material so that everyone can understand it.

4. Other than teaching, what other responsibilities does the Lecturer have?
A university professor is an academic position so it naturally involves some serious work as a researcher. Developing an academic career requires writing a number of various publications (articles, conference papers, monographs, books, etc.) If you are good enough, you might be included in research projects, often as a part of international research groups.

5. What are the basic qualifications and skills needed to become a University Lecturer?
I believe being a teacher (at any level) is, first of all, a calling. You can’t be a good teacher if you look at this job only as something that pays the bills. Besides that, you need a formal education in the field that you are teaching. In most of the cases, you will need a Master’s degree to apply for the assistant professor position but shortly after that, you are going to need a doctorate degree in order to keep the job and further develop your career. To be a good University Lecturer you need not only to know your subjects very well but also, you need the ability to share your knowledge with different types of people. As I said before, students are very different and you have to find at least three different ways to explain the key points of your lectures. In any case, any practical experience in the field will come in handy (if it is applicable e.g. if you teach theoretical physics, gaining such experience is going to be tough).

6. How many subjects does a University Lecturer typically teach?
That really depends on the university and on the field of expertise. But let’s say that the average would be around 8 subjects per year. Note that in most of the cases the subjects will have a similar background so you will not have to jump into different areas of knowledge which could be really tough.

7. What are the working hours of a Lecturer? Do you work during summer as well?
One of the things that attract young people to the job as a lecturer is the flexibility in the working hours. I haven’t researched the situation in other countries but in Bulgaria, you get a full-time assistant professor salary if you teach 360-420 hours per year (it is really not that much). Besides the teaching hours, you have to set aside enough time to prepare for your lectures. Being not only a teacher but also a researcher, you need to know that a solid research takes a good amount of your time. The summer is free of lectures so you get a sweet 1.5-2 months paid leave (please don’t hate me =)) If you are not used to such long vacations (which is my case), you can always use the time to do your researches.

8. How do Lecturers get paid, e.g. based on classes taught, fixed salary, or another way? Do they get paid when there are no classes, e.g. in summer?
Usually, you get a fixed monthly salary for a number of teaching hours, defined by the university (the abovementioned 360-420 hours). If you teach extra hours, you get some extra payment. Yes, you get paid even when there are no classes. Many Universities provide additional remuneration if you have a doctorate degree. Additionally, as a researcher you can join scientific projects that are funded by the University, the Government and/or the Business, so they are a good source for some extra income.

9. Other than the salary, do you receive any additional social benefits?
That also depends on the University. In my case, I  basically don’t have a limit on the paid courses I can take, which is great. My University often sends the employees on business trips abroad to take part in conferences (I guess I don’t have to explain the benefits from that).

10. Could you please describe the hierarchy within a University? Who is your manager?
On top of the hierarchy is the Rector/President of the University. One level below you have the Vice-Rectors, then the Deans of the Faculties, under them you have the Department heads. The Department head is my formal manager, but as an Assistant professor, I often communicate with the Professors/Associate professors regarding the subject I teach.

11. What is more common: the university lecturer to have a side job/own business, or to work only at the university?
In my opinion, it is beneficial to both parties (the lecturer and the University) if the lecturer is a good enough professional so he or she can successfully practice the things he or she teaches. In my case, the time is enough to have two jobs but you have to choose which of them is more important to you and make it your priority.

12. What are the career path options for a University Lecturer?
Go to the answer to question 10 in a reverse order. You start as an Assistant professor, then you become a Chief assistant professor. If you are good enough, you can become an Associate professor, then you can become a Professor. Once you become an Associate professor, you can be elected for some of the prestigious positions at the university – a department head, a vice dean, a dean, a vice rector, or a rector.

13. Usually, how many years do people work as a University Lecturer? Can it be a lifetime occupation?
As far as I have seen, it is usually a lifetime occupation if you are a good fit for the job.

14. What are the biggest challenges you face in your job?
Well, I simply love it so it is really a piece of cake for me. However, if someone does not like to constantly gain and share new knowledge, then it really could be a challenge.

15. What do you like most about your job?
The ability to gain and share knowledge every day, the flexible working hours, the contact with young and passionate people, and the chance to work alongside with respected professionals in my area of study.