Green jobs: what does a Food Lecturer do?

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6 min read
AUTHOR: Molly Long

At the end of their studies, many people feel they aren’t ready to leave the university – they’re worried about the world of work and moving beyond the supportive environment they’ve curated over several years. Others, however, aren’t ready to move on because they’ve found their perfect workplace already. It is for this reason that many people choose to never really end their education, and instead pursue a career as a Lecturer in academia.

Lecturers come in all shapes, sizes, and disciplines. But one thing they all have in common is a desire to continue learning and share their knowledge. A university is the perfect place to do this – every year, a fresh cohort of enquiring minds is welcomed, eager to begin learning about the topic they’re specialising in.

As a Lecturer in food, your discipline is a dynamic one – the food industry is advancing at break-neck speed, and as is the scale of many of the problems it must react to. The climate crisis, food insecurity, food policy and sustainable agriculture are all issues that are far too great for one person to solve. But by becoming a Lecturer and teaching students about these topics, you add more players to the team trying to find a solution.

Ben Christopherson is a Lecturer on the University of West London’s Future Food, Nutrition and Culinary Arts course. He told a recent Careers Conversations podcast: “One of the reasons I love my job is because there aren’t really two or three days that are same.”

What are the responsibilities?

  • Planning, writing, and delivering lecturers on your given subject
  • Hosting seminars to help students further engage with a topic
  • Teach practical lessons
  • Conduct office hours meetings with students to clear up any questions they have
  • Set exams and coursework
  • Grade exams and coursework
  • Keep up to date with research, science and literature relating to your given subject
  • Produce and share your own research
  • Help the admissions team with decisions on who can enrol on your course
  • Meet with other lecturers and educators to refine the course offering
  • Carry out admin where necessary
  • Mentor students through their studies and advise on dissertations

Who might your employers be?

While this might seem like an obvious question, the truth is Lecturers can find themselves working for many different types of employer. The most common is of course a university – where they’ll likely work in a specific department alongside colleagues with similar research and teaching interests.

Beyond their university employers, some Lecturers also work with academic publications, museums and other further education colleges. Additionally, those at the top of their field can be approached by governments and think tanks to provide expert knowledge on policy.

Lecturers in food, for example, have often been involved in helping shape government policy or providing expert analysis for reports related to the topic. Additionally, some companies may wish to engage the expertise of a Food Lecturer to shape their own sustainability plans.

What qualifications do you need?

The vast majority of Lecturers will have a degree (or several) in the field in which they teach. It’s pretty straightforward as to why – they fall in love with a subject and want to continue to learn and educate on it.

However many Lecturers working within food also have a background working professionally within the industry, for example as a chef, nutritionist or product developer. As a result, some don’t actually have the relevant formal qualifications, having worked their way up the ladder, instead offering their students a wealth of practical knowledge.

Ben, for example, travelled extensively working in kitchens around the world before becoming a Lecturer. “I worked internationally in Switzerland, in Germany, Canada, in five star hotels and restaurants as well,” he says, adding however that he didn’t get to specialise in pastry until he came back to the UK. After that, he continued to work eclectically, holding varied positions in London, Nottingham, Korea, Aruba and department store Harrods.

All of this is to say, there are multiple ways to become a Lecturer in food related topics and no one way is the right way. If you’re keen to follow the university route, however, then check out some of these courses:

Alternatively, if you’d prefer a more hands-on college experience first of all, try one of these:

What is the salary like?

According to Prospects, the average salary for a university Lecturer ranges from £33,000 to £49,000 depending on the university and your experience. As you climb the seniority ladder, you’re likely to see an increase in pay. Some heads of department or professors can be paid upwards of £100,000.

Where will you be working?

Most of your work will take place within the confines of your university – either in your own office, your department office, or a lecture theatre or classroom. “Most of my students are in on campus around three or three and a half days a week,” says Ben. Depending on your course, you might also be in the kitchen at times.

Occasionally, you might find yourself delivering lectures elsewhere, but most will be at your given institution. Additionally, many Lecturers find they end up working a lot at home too, as the workload is often tackled in larger chunks.

What is career progression like?

Like with other teaching positions, being a Food Lecturer has plenty of room for progression. You may start out as a Lecturer or even as a Research Assistant or Assistant Lecturer, and progress to the point of professorship. From here you might become the head of your course, head of department or even a dean at your university.

At the same time, because of the intricate link between your job and your studies, you might also use this time to earn things like a PhD or postdoctoral qualifications.

Is there demand for the role?

With so much attention on sustainability right now, the role of Food Lecturer is only going to become more in demand as years go by. As Ben explains, people working in all areas of food are reevaluating their impact on the planet right now, from patisserie to prawns. In order to ensure there are people to make the change, Lecturers and other food educators are vital.

Find out more about green careers in the food and drinks industry at Food Matters Careers.

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