Carey began his career at Cambridge University, as a research fellow at Jesus College, before moving to St Andrews University, where he taught from 1977 to 1991 except for a visiting professorship at University of Minnesota in 1987-8. While in Minnesota he also taught at Carleton College. In 1991 he was elected Professor of Classics at Royal Holloway, University of London before moving to UCL to take up the Chair of Greek in 2003.
At UCL he teaches Ancient Greek, Greek tragedy and comedy, Athenian law and Homer.
Carey's PhD was on Pindar and was supervised by P. E. Easterling, John Killen and the late Sir Denys Page. Over the years he has also published on lyric poetry, Homer and Athenian law. He recently completed the Oxford Text of the orator Lysias.
He is currently under contract to produce a Cambridge University Press commentary on Book 7 of Herodotus.
Carey is well known for his love of London and London life. He is a great proselytizer for Classics, giving frequent lectures to school audiences, and is a patron of The Iris Project.