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Research Toolkit

Family life and academia

Family life and academia

For parents, a career in academia can offer both advantages and disadvantages:


  • Academia usually offers more flexibility during training and subsequent work as a consultant. It offers more autonomy over how you use your time and when you choose to work.
  • Academic trainees don’t usually move around as much during their training as non-academic trainees (they are usually allocated training rotations in the Teaching Hospital affiliated with their University). However, bear in mind that this could also be viewed as a disadvantage in terms of limiting the diversity of training (in which case you should discuss your training rotations/needs with your TPD/clinical supervisor).
  • Some trainees find that working less than full-time positively impacts on their work ethic, making them more focused and efficient.


  • Combining academic training with parental leave and less than full-time training may elongate training considerably (although bear in mind that some trainees view this as an advantage.)
  • Academic progress may slow– however funders will recognise and take account of this.
  • Academics usually travel and spend time away from home (e.g. conference attendance).
  • Some aspects of research require working antisocial hours e.g. cell culture, grant deadlines etc.
  • Academics sometimes find it difficult to separate work from home-life, taking work/ideas/problems home.


  • Consider the type of research which would be most compatible with your family life.
  • Find out whether your University offers Athena Swan funding to fund a research technician during a period of parental leave or upon the subsequent return from work.
  • Establish who will fund your salary during parental leave (check with your HR department).
  • Consider maintaining an NHS honorary contract during parental leave as this may affect pay entitlement during the parental leave and the years of NHS service and pension entitlement.
  • Decide whether you’d like to stay in touch with research during your period of parental leave or not. If you choose to, conferences are a good way to do this as you can present work that you generated prior to the parental leave. Some conferences offer childcare facilities or support e.g.
  • Consider sharing parental leave with your partner. Find out whether you can share your combined keeping in touch days’ . Discuss with your clinical and academic supervisors how many of your ‘keeping in touch days’ can be used to undertake research.
  • If you decide to work less than full-time, consider sharing this with your partner (e.g. rather than you working 3 days a week, you each work 4 days a week).
  • RCPath trainee fees are capped at 5 years even if you are in training for longer due to working less than full-time.
  • Consider finding a mentor who is an academic with a family.
  • Undertaking both clinical training and research can be demanding and challenging -take time to periodically reflect on your work-life balance, physical and mental health.
  • There are no hard and fast rules. Do what works for you and your family. Be patient with yourself.