I have finished my PhD a while ago and have since worked at the university as lecturer. Now the contract is coming to an end and I am weighing two options: (1) Teach at the university (I am much more interested in teaching than in research) or (2) work in industry.

I have done a lot of teaching during and after my PhD and consider myself to be quite good at it. However, finding such a teaching position where I live seems very difficult at the moment. Abroad, those positions seem to be more plentiful. If it is of any matter: I live in Germany. The field is mathematics.

As I am not exactly keen on leaving the country, I would like to try working in industry. However, I worry that I might miss teaching, and wonder if, after having left academia for a year or two, it would be difficult to return. Some related questions have been asked, but I fear that my lack of interest in research might give things a different spin...

Would leaving academia now be held against me if I tried to return a few years later to teach at a (possibly foreign) university?


2 Answers 2


While it depends on where the possibly foreign university is, I can answer for the UK (...for now, pre Brexit. Post-Brexit will just be some sort of crazy nightmare so who can say). Simply put, yes, if you were applying for a teaching-only position, having a stretch of time in industry and outside of teaching is likely to be seen as negative on balance. With numerous qualified people applying for every position, committees can pick and choose and they usually pick and choose people who have fresh teaching experience rather than someone who has been out of the game for a while. It isn't impossible to come back to teaching from industry, especially if you can show how you working in industry would be an asset to your teaching, but it's hard. Indeed I only know of examples of a move back to teaching from very few fields and it would be unlikely in mine (Social Sciencey and Artsy).

  • This seems correct for STEM fields also. There might be exceptions for part time teaching at the upper level in state-of-the-art subfields if that is your specific expertise, but generally not for most teaching-only positions. Easier for research oriented positions in some fields, but again, emerging disciplines.
    – Buffy
    Commented Oct 7, 2019 at 12:55

In Finland and at least some other Nordic countries there exist universities of applied sciences (ammattikorkeakoulu/høgskole/yrkehögskola/erhvervsakademi), and possibly such institutions that have changed into or combined with universities. Germany seems to have a similar institution.

These offer less academic bachelor degrees and maybe higher degrees. They need teachers, who might or might not have some possibility or requirement for research or R&D. At least in Finland they often require the teachers to have relevant work experience, unless they are teaching general subjects (like mathematics); but I doubt relevant work experience would be a bad thing there, either.

The teaching would often happen in the local language and might require a local teaching qualification.

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