How to Write an Academic Cover Letter (Plus Example Letter)

By Indeed Editorial Team

Published 19 April 2022

The Indeed Editorial Team comprises a diverse and talented team of writers, researchers and subject matter experts equipped with Indeed's data and insights to deliver useful tips to help guide your career journey.

An academic cover letter allows an education or academic professional to introduce themselves and express their interest in a position. The cover letter is an opportunity for them to share their personality and highlight their best skills and achievements. If you're an academic or education professional applying to open positions, learning to write a cover letter can be beneficial. In this article, we explain what an academic cover letter is, detail how to write one and provide an example letter you can use as inspiration when creating your own.

Related: A Guide on Addressing a Cover Letter Appropriately

What is an academic cover letter?

An academic cover letter is a formal communications document in which an academic or education professional expresses their interest in a position. It differs from a CV because, rather than summarising skills and abilities, the cover letter allows the candidate to explain their interests and show their passion. In a cover letter, candidates can show their writing abilities and connect with the hiring manager or team.

Related: FAQ: Is a CV a Cover Letter? (With Definitions and Examples)

How to write an academic cover letter

Learning how to write an effective cover letter can help you improve your application materials and increase your chance of receiving an offer. You can follow these steps to write a cover letter for an education or academic position:

1. Format the cover letter

The first step to writing your cover letter is choosing a method with which to write and format it. Consider using a word processing programme with a library of cover letter templates, as it can make the formatting process simpler. If you choose to format the document yourself, use a professional font like Times New Roman and a font size like point 11 or 12. When formatting your cover letter, avoid including too many aesthetic details or graphics in the letter, as it can take space away from the text.

Related: Guide: How to Use "Dear Hiring Manager" in a Cover Letter

2. Emphasise your experience

After formatting your letter, you can introduce yourself in the first paragraph and detail the position you're interested in. Following that, emphasise your relevant teaching experience and detail how it can help you be successful in the position. It's best to focus on your teaching experience during this section, but if you have other relevant experience, that can be helpful too. For example, if you're a finance professor applying for an open position, you may also include your experience as a chief financial officer for a top company.

Related: How to Structure a Cover Letter (With Example)

3. Highlight relevant skills

Another important part of writing your cover letter is highlighting your relevant skills. In academia, some important skills are critical thinking, research, communication and time management. When detailing your skills, consider connecting them to achievements or using specific figures to show the abilities you have. For example, you may show your time management skills by detailing the time you published a scientific paper, taught a class and were a keynote speaker at an academic conference all in the same term.

4. Discuss research goals

An important part of your role in academia is likely related to research, and the hiring team may want to learn more about the subjects that interest you. During this portion of the cover letter, consider discussing your current research or detailing the research you want to do if you earn the position. You may include your previous publications and research information to help the hiring team better understand your process and how your research experience can add value to the institution.

Related: Q&A: How Long Should a Cover Letter Be? (With Example and Tips)

5. Reference other materials

If the job listing or hiring committee requests additional information or materials, you can reference them at the end of your cover letter. This may include plans for classes, ideas for research, research plans or proposals, teaching philosophy, writing samples or syllabi. By referencing these materials at the end of your letter, you can direct the hiring team on where to look for them and let them know you included them. You can also specify that you're willing to send additional materials if they request them.

6. Edit and proofread

After highlighting your experience and emphasising your skills, you can end the cover letter by thanking the hiring team for their time and asking them to contact you for further information. Before you submit the cover letter, it's important to edit and proofread it thoroughly to ensure you present your information in the best way possible. To edit, read the letter aloud and try to identify areas in which you can alter the wording to make its meaning more powerful. When proofreading, search for errors you can remedy. Consider asking friends to help you review your letter before you submit it.

Related: How to End a Cover Letter in 8 Steps (With Examples)

Example cover letters for academia

These are some example cover letters you can use as inspiration when creating your own:

Example 1

Here's an example where a professional focuses on their teaching experiences and previous courses:

Mu Xiuying
Hong Kong
mxiuying@email.edu

January 01, 2022

Ning Hui
Recruitment specialist
Turquoise Mountain University
Department of English
Hong Kong

Dear Ning Hui,

I am writing to apply for the tenure-track English professorship at the Turquoise Mountain University advertised on the college's online job board. Starting as a graduate teaching assistant at the University of Ross and continuing through the last five years as a senior lecturer, I have over seven years of experience teaching at the post-secondary level.

While in my doctorate programme, I completed teaching instruction courses in English composition, professional writing and literature. Further, I have published articles about education and Modernist literature in a variety of peer-reviewed journals. Lake's University Press is publishing my doctoral dissertation, Metaphysics and Modernist Poetry, early next year. With my experience as an instructor and researcher, I am confident that I can be an integral member of Turquoise Mountain University's English faculty.

Your job posting states you want a professor with the ability to create and direct unique courses, and I believe I possess these strengths. My combined classroom experiences have helped me develop my pedagogical skills so that I can target lessons towards individuals' strengths and challenges. This dedication has earned me highly positive feedback from my students and the faculty at the University of Ross. In 2018, the University of Ross' English department awarded me the Heng Fellowship for excellence in undergraduate teaching. I intend to continue this high calibre of instruction at Turquoise Mountain University.

In my time as a graduate assistant and senior instructor at the University of Ross, it has gratified me to take part in the school's commitment to the intellectual development of its students. Through Forest Community College, I have thoroughly familiarised myself with online teaching tools and methods, so I can teach effectively in multiple formats. I look forward to joining your English department faculty so I can continue fostering dedicated writers and critical thinkers while developing my own scholarly inquiry.

Thank you for your time and consideration. I look forward to discussing this position with you further.

Sincerely,

Mu Xiuying , Ph.D.

Example 2

In this example, the professional focuses on their previous research, publications and passions:

Xiuying Guanting Hong Kong
xiuyingguanting@email.edu

January 01, 2023

Na Shui
Hiring specialist
Blue Lake University
Department of History
Hong Kong

Dear Na Shui,

I'm Xiuying Guanting, and I'm writing to express my interest in the History professorship opening at Blue Lake University. With over 10 years of teaching and dozens of publications to my name, I believe my addition to the education staff at your school can elevate academia.

Last year, I led an expedition that discovered ancient caves and relics of history in our country. Following this expedition, my book What Lies Under the Surface became a best-selling hit worldwide. From the information we gathered, and the research I've done since, I've ascertained the colony of people living in those caves was extremely influential to our development. I'm confident that my passions for learning and discovery make me an excellent candidate for this role, as I can continue to research historical information and make breakthroughs under the Blue Lake University name.

I understand Blue Lake University is renowned for unique and specialised history courses, and I'm passionate about creating compelling and thorough coursework that helps students ignite their interest in both learning and history. I always hold more office hours than required to ensure all students have the opportunity to meet with me. Last semester, I guided a student through a historical research project that uncovered more information about ancient writings and their origins. Though I'm passionate about research and advancement, I also understand that my relationships with students are the most important part of being a professor.

I look forward to joining your History department faculty so I can continue fostering research and helping students connect history to the present. Thank you for your time and consideration. Please don't hesitate to contact me should you require further information.

Sincerely,

Xiuying Guanting, Ph.D.

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