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What does a Lecturer do?

Lecturers teach and carry out research in universities and higher education establishments. They teach academic and vocational subjects at undergraduate and postgraduate level to students over the age of 18. Lecturers also contribute to their department’s research activities and publish their work in journals and books.

Typical responsibilities of a lecturer include:

• developing teaching materials and preparing for sessions
• delivering lectures, seminars, practical demonstrations and fieldwork
• setting and marking assignments and exams
• checking and assessing students’ work
• acting as a personal tutor to a number of students
• supervising students’ research
• attending and contributing to professional conferences and seminars
• taking part in staff training and continuous professional development (CPD)
• carrying out administrative tasks such as student admissions
• writing research proposals, papers and other publications
• reading academic journals
• supervising PhD students and research staff
• managing research budgets.


What qualifications do I need?

The minimum requirements for entry into lecturing are a bachelor degree and a postgraduate qualification (often a PhD) that are relevant to the subject you want to teach. Many lecturers are mature candidates who have also gained several years’ professional or industrial work experience. You may be able to gain experience by taking on teaching duties while studying. Or there may be opportunities with some universities to work as a graduate teaching assistant.

What subjects do I need?

Contact each institution for their specific requirements, but these subjects are recommended: 
• None


Where can I study?

North-West University
Bachelor of Education

University of Pretoria
Bachelor of Education

Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University
Bachelor of Education

University of the Western Cape
Postgraduate Certificate in Education; Bachelor of Education

University of the Witwatersrand
Bachelor of Education: General Education

University of Johannesburg
Bachelor of Education

University of Stellenbosch
Bachelor of Education: General Education

Cape Peninsula University of Technology
Teaching Diploma

Tshwane University of Technology
Teaching Diploma

Where can I get more info?

Higher Education Learning and Teaching Association of Southern Africa (HELTASA) – www.heltasa.org.za
South African Council for Educators (SACE) – www.sace.org.za
Education Association of South Africa – www.easa.ac.za


Interview with a Lecturer

Dr Sumaya Mall | EPIDEMIOLOGIST/LECTURER | Centre for Evidence-Based Health Care, Faculty of Health Sciences, Stellenbosch University

Dr Sumaya Mall | EPIDEMIOLOGIST/LECTURER | Centre for Evidence-Based Health Care, Faculty of Health Sciences, Stellenbosch University


Why did you choose this profession?
I think I always had a passion for research. I seem to think it originated at the age of about 12, when I conducted a research project on the death penalty. This made the decision to become an academic a natural one, where research is combined with teaching and mentoring students to conduct research.

If you have a more unusual career, please explain what it is that you do
I am an epidemiologist, which means I study disease distribution in societies, and factors that influence disease. My current research is on schizophrenia and the factors that influence the onset of schizophrenia. I also teach epidemiology at Stellenbosch University to undergraduate and postgraduate students.

What training did you undergo, and where?
I have five degrees. I studied a Bachelor of Arts degree at the University of Cape Town (UCT), followed by an honours degree, also at UCT. During this year, I became interested in human language, disability, the human brain and behaviour. I registered for a Master’s in Public Health at UCT, which led to a PhD degree at Stellenbosch University. The research for my PhD encapsulated the disciplines of health, disability and human behaviour. I also completed a Master’s degree in Epidemiology at Columbia University, New York, which made me more proficient at statistics, a very necessary aspect of research.

Describe a typical day on the job
I spend most of the day interrogating data, writing research papers alone and collaboratively with colleagues, and thinking up new ideas for research. I also give lectures to students and meet with students about their projects.

What do you enjoy most about your work?
I have a passion for research and discovery but also love the interaction with students.

What don’t you like?
Research can be lonely and difficult at times. It also requires a great deal of organisation and management. New research projects can also be quite daunting.

What hurdles have you had to overcome?
I think the crossover of discipline from humanities to health sciences was tough, but the interdisciplinary aspect of my work is also rewarding.

What’s been the highlight of your career to date?
The mentorship I have received has shaped me as a mentor to my students. I never tell students they can’t achieve something but rather encourage them to achieve their own realistic goals.

What are your future goals?
I would like to remain in academia, attract research funding from international bodies, and mentor students from different backgrounds to pursue stimulating and rewarding research careers.

In your line of work, is experience as important as formal training?
Yes, it certainly is! are there certain traits one should have to do this work? Patience is a good quality, and perhaps determination.

What advice would you give to someone starting out in your career?
I would encourage passion for one’s work, resilience, determination, never giving up and discipline.

Describe your job in three words
Stimulating, gruelling and rewarding!

O’Brien Pêrel | LECTURER | Western Cape Department of Agriculture

O’Brien Pêrel | LECTURER | Western Cape Department of Agriculture

Why did you choose to become a lecturer?
I chose this profession because it’s very exciting; you learn a lot from the subject you teach and from the students you lecture. I enjoy being in class, sharing knowledge, facilitating learning and stimulating students in their field of study. Teaching provides a platform from which you can engage with and influence students positively and to me that is really important.

What training did you undergo?
I did a three-year degree at the Elsenburg Agricultural Training Institute, specialising in animal production (small and large stock). I then studied at the University of the Free State, where I did my B.Agric Honours in Agricultural Management. I have also done an assessor’s and moderator’s course, as well as other teaching courses and workshops like PREDAK.

Is there a type of personality best suited to this work?
Yes, a lecturer engages not only with students but also with people from various spheres and backgrounds, so it’s important to be versatile, friendly, kind and supportive. You need to be approachable, and be energetic when explaining concepts.

Is experience as important as formal training?
I would say that experience is critical. When you lecture on a certain topic, it is important that the students hear that you speak from experience. They will pick it up if you don’t! You need to read, research, attend conferences and symposiums, as well as workshops, to increase practical knowledge and be better equipped as a lecturer.

Describe a typical day on the job
In the morning I prepare the slides and information that I’m going to teach. Then I’m in class for about 45 minutes, lecturing to and engaging with the students. After class, I read my emails and prepare for the next class.

What do you like the most?
I like the preparation and the actual lecturing. It is a privilege to work with such diverse students. Then, of course, seeing the students graduate and become a product of the institute is a proud and humbling moment.

Which aspects are you least enthusiastic about?
I would say the assessment and marking. On the other hand, it is always nice to see how the students have done in their assessments.

What’s been the highlight?
When I was given the opportunity to go to Canada to represent not only the Institute but the Western Cape Department of Agriculture. It is a huge privilege for me.

What are your goals for the future?
I would like to obtain my Master’s in Agricultural Management, continue teaching, and become more involved with coaching and mentoring at the institute or outside the college.

What advice would you give to someone starting out?
They have to be sure that they enjoy talking in front of people and explaining concepts or content. Getting a degree and practical experience is critical. A lecturer also needs to take responsibility for doing continuous research and study in order to keep abreast of all the latest developments.

Describe your job in three words
Interesting, exciting and humbling.