Career prospects as a teaching and research professor

Prof. Dr. Tomerius
Prof. Dr. Tomerius | © Oana Popa-Costea

Prof Carolyn Tomerius is now a professor at a university of applied sciences (formerly a technical collage). As a practising lawyer in the private sector, she switched to a new scientific career and now teaches aspiring, high-ranking police officers and Security Management students at the Berlin School of Economics and Law (HWR). As a Professor of Public Law - especially of Fundamental and Human Rights, as well as Police Law - she talks about her personal career path and reveals what it takes to gain a reputation as a professor.

How did you gain your reputation as a professor at HWR?

I worked as a lawyer in Berlin for many years, specialising primarily in public law from day one. In 1999, I accepted my first teaching position as a part-time lecturer at HWR. I’d always been interested in sharing legal knowledge with people seeking a career outside of the traditional legal professions.

As a result of this experience, I realised that I enjoy teaching even more than working as a lawyer. So in 2010, I became a freelance lecturer and began teaching at the Berlin Administrative Academy alongside my work at HWR. As a mother of three, this career was also more compatible with family life than my former job as a lawyer.

When I saw the advert for a visiting professor at HWR, I immediately applied and was accepted. A little while later, my current position was advertised, for which I also applied and successfully completed the recruitment process. I’m extremely pleased that I embarked upon this career. It’s also worth noting that my role was funded by the Berlin Programme to Promote Equal Opportunities for Women in Research and Teaching (BCP).

And what attracted you to a scientific career?

While completing my PhD, I worked as a research assistant at the university in Essen, where I became familiar with teaching and scientific writing. This inspired me to pursue the idea of undertaking scientific work and teaching at a university one day.

What do you like about your job?

I like working with people who have more than just a legal perspective. I find this particularly appealing. It’s also rewarding to work with colleagues from other disciplines and departments. This makes for an exciting combination. My work as a professor is extremely varied. My job brings me into contact with young people and allows me to support their education, which I enjoy.

Why did you choose to live in Berlin?

I came to Berlin in 1995 to complete my legal internship and never left. For me, Berlin has always had a positive vibe. My mother is from Berlin, my parents met here and my grandparents also lived her for many years.

As someone with an interest in public law in general and constitutional law in particular, the capital is an exciting place to live. All the important political decisions are made in Berlin and the relevant constitutional matters are often addressed here. My three children were also born in Berlin. All reasons to love this city!

How do you maintain a healthy work-life balance?

Admittedly, my early career as a lawyer and mother was extremely challenging. Back then, I would have welcomed the support that I now receive as a tenured professor for the State of Berlin.

Since being a student, I’ve always had a full-time job and have sometimes required assistance with domestic responsibilities. I’ve had to be extremely efficient, have regularly worked in the evenings or arranged with my friends to look after each other’s children. I can categorically say that a career like mine naturally requires a willingness to sacrifice your own personal interests for a while.

As a university professor, if you have children or care for relatives, you can ask to reduce your hours, or take a leave of absence for up to 12 years. In addition, my university’s administration department ensures that my lecture times are aligned with my children’s nursery and after-school club hours. For example, I’ve almost never had to be on site five full days a week. We also do a lot for students with children. In our department, there are special parenting classes and fantastic childcare activities during the school holidays.

Do you have any tips for women who are aiming to become professors at a university of applied sciences?

Apply for teaching positions in plenty of time and plan your career strategically! To become a professor at a university of applied sciences, you will need the following:

  • Teaching experience
  • An aptitude for teaching
  • Published evidence of your scientific ability 
  • Five years’ practical professional experience (including three in a non-academic environment)
  • A PhD (with a certain classification (may vary depending on the vacancy))

Unlike a university professor, you will not need a qualification for a teaching career in higher education. This makes things much easier. Feel free to take advantage of the various support programmes, such as the “Career prospects as a professor“ event jointly organised by HWR, the Berliner Hochschule für Technik (BHT) and HTW Berlin! It will answer all your questions about applying to become a professor. Alternatively, you can seek advice from the German Association of University Professors and Lecturers. I’d definitely recommend contacting them. There are great job opportunities for women. It will enhance your career no end and will be worth your while.