• 01/17/2023
  • Reading time 4 min.

Alternative career tracks for mid-level academic staff

Interested in a career in science management?

Not all scientists are aiming for a professorship. The CareerDesign@TUM program provides support in finding and pursuing alternative career tracks.

Woman standing in the portico. Uli Benz / TUM
After completing the TUM Science Manager pilot program, Dr. Birgit Vierling is now shaping transformation processes at the new TUM School of Engineering and Design.

“Among our researchers, we have many committed and highly skilled talents who are essential to our success,” says PD Dr. Kristin Knipfer, Executive Director of TUM Institute for LifeLong Learning. “We do not want to loose these talents ‘just because’ a career as a professor is not what they want. At the same time, we know that we cannot retain all of them because of the extreme shortage of long-term prospects in academia. But we want to equip them as well as possible for their next career step within and also beyond academia.”

The TUM Institute for LifeLong Learning (TUM IL³) has been mapping out the structure of CareerDesign@TUM since mid-2020. The goal is to offer all five qualification tracks by 2026. The TUM IL³ team is working on the continuing education elements and themes together with representatives of mid-level academics, the TUM leadership and external advisers. “We want to find the right balance between current needs of mid-level academics and strategic goals of TUM as well as between costs and benefits for participants and their supervisors,” says Kristin Knipfer.

Helping to shape change

A continuing education program in science management at TUM has already been launched in 2011 at the Chair of Research and Science Management. This has generated extensive experience in the qualification of science managers – who are in enormous demand at present: Our science managers are shaping the wide-ranging transformation processes at TUM, such as digitization and the transition from departments to schools. They are also working at key interfaces. TUM IL³ provides support for mastering these challenging times.

In spring of 2021, the qualification track TUM Science Manager startet with 15 participants from TUM and five from the cooperating Max-Planck-Gesellschaft. “They had many different reasons for applying,” says Kristin Knipfer. “But what they all have in common: despite years of professional experience, they still see themselves as lifelong learners. And with the help of CareerDesign@TUM, they want to expand their skill set and explore new perspectives.”

Dr. Birgit Vierling found the manifold topics and the variety of learning formats very attractive. She also found the job shadowing opportunities appealing. These offered her a chance to get an inside look at other organizations and working areas. “I was curious about the peer mentoring as well, which included collegial case consultations. That was a very valuable experience”, says Birgit Vierling. “What I especially like about my work is the collaboration with highly skilled people, the international atmosphere, and multidisciplinary collaboration – all of which will be even more important when the schools are established.”

Dr. Vierling was offered several positions during participation in the TUM Science Manager pilot program. All of them were exciting opportunities. “I finally decided to play an active role in the transformation myself as Head of Committees, Faculty Recruitment and Research at TUM School of Engineering and Design”, says Birgit Vierling. As Kristin Knipfer of TUM IL³ sees it, that is no coincidence: “A focal point of our TUM Science Manager program for experienced science managers is change management and transformation. Along with individual career development, the program also supports the ongoing process of establishing schools at TUM.”

Careers at TUM and beyond

Because the skills acquired in the CareerDesign@TUM program are in such strong demand, participation also opens doors for the next career step outside TUM – as in the case of Christoph Meier. “During the program, I increasingly took on management roles and responsibilities in personnel management, and I have benefited greatly from the contents of this program”, he says. “I am now in charge of the Center for Research Strategy and Support at the University of Ulm.”

“As paradoxical as it may seem: for us, participants leaving TUM after the program is not a loss but a win,” says Kristin Knipfer. “We are aware that our employees have many options – also outside TUM. After all, the goal of CareerDesign@TUM is to advance those skills that are in demand in the employment market. Our hope is that participants will act as multipliers outside TUM and return to TUM with valuable experience at some point again.”

Further information and links

CareerDesign@TUM offers five qualification tracks:

  • TUM Learning Professional (from 2022)
  • TUM Researcher (from 2023)
  • TUM Science Manager (from 2021)
  • TUM Technical Expert (scheduled start in 2024)
  • TUM Entrepreneurial Advisor (from 2022)

Each program consists of around 300 hours (course program, career coaching, peer mentoring, job shadowing, transfer project) and is completed over a period of 12 months or longer. Participation is optional and requires an application.

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The TUM IL³ team welcomes feedback and ideas regarding CareerDesign@TUM via e-mail.

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