Redefining ‘early career’ in academia: a collective narrative approach

Agnes Bosanquet*, Alana Mailey, Kelly E. Matthews, Jason M. Lodge

*Corresponding author for this work

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

    97 Citations (Scopus)


    ‘Early career’ in academia is typically defined in terms of research capability in the five years following PhD completion, with career progression from post-doctoral appointment to tenure, promotion and beyond. This ideal path assumes steady employment and continuous research development. With academic work increasingly casualised, experiences of ‘early career’ are changing and definitions in use by institutions and research bodies do not reflect the lived experiences of early career academics (ECAs). This paper presents five collective narratives and a thematic analysis of survey data from 522 ECAs in three Australian universities. The results offer insights into the diverse experiences of the early stages of academic careers and provide an opportunity to reconsider current definitions. We argue that the employment context in higher education makes it crucial to consider scholars’ self-definitions alongside existing objective indicators to redefine early career in academia.

    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)890-902
    Number of pages13
    JournalHigher Education Research and Development
    Issue number5
    Early online date28 Dec 2016
    Publication statusPublished - 2017


    • early career
    • academic work
    • narrative
    • casualisation
    • academic identity


    Dive into the research topics of 'Redefining ‘early career’ in academia: a collective narrative approach'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

    Cite this