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Your PhD, what next?: Non-academic jobs

Opportunities for PhD graduates to work in non-academic jobs look to be increasing. Discover how to make your PhD work for you in the labour market…

What jobs can I do with a PhD?

The most common jobs held by recent PhD graduates include:

Although academia is a popular destination for PhD graduates, more opportunities exist outside of education. In fact, more than a quarter of those graduating with a PhD work in the science industry. In recent years there has also been a trend for companies to become more research orientated, which in turn has opened up new jobs.

The majority of PhD graduates who work outside of higher education are employed in an area where they can make use of their specialised knowledge and skills. To get personalised career suggestions based on your skills and interests, login to what jobs would suit me?

How do I get a non-academic job?

There are many ways to boost your chances of landing a non-academic job. To start your job hunt:

  • search for graduate jobs;
  • build a network of contacts (online and in person) to help you unearth 'hidden' job vacancies;
  • use social media to raise your profile. For example, many Doctoral students and graduates will have Twitter accounts, using them to join in discussions with like-minded academics and share research and opinions;
  • gain relevant work experience in your chosen field.

It is worth regularly checking sector-specific websites and publications for job adverts, such as:

How do I sell my PhD to employers?

When applying for non-academic jobs you must demonstrate to potential employers how your knowledge and expertise will be beneficial in the workplace.

PhD students can apply for graduate jobs but you may need to prove to employers that you are not over-qualified. One way to do this is to focus on the skills that set you apart from the competition, using examples to explain how your PhD has helped to enhance them.

Typically, key skills that PhD graduates can highlight to employers include:

  • communication skills - point to the many presentations or lectures you will have given;
  • creative thinking - PhD students are often asked to think outside the box, so make sure you stress the times when you have done this;
  • management ability - as well as managing your own time you may have managed a small team of research assistants or mentored undergraduate students;
  • problem-solving abilities - during your PhD you will have tackled and solved numerous problems, especially in research;
  • self-motivation - as a PhD student you are normally left to manage your own workload.

What do other PhD graduates do?

Of the PhD graduates in employment six months after graduation, just under one in five work as higher education teaching professionals; the majority choose to pursue non-academic careers.

PhD graduate destinations
Destinations Percentage
Employed 85.4%
Further study 2.2%
Working and studying 4.0%
Unemployed 3.7%
Other 4.7%
Types of work entered in the UK
Science  30.7%
Education professionals 23.4%
Legal, social and welfare 9.4%
Technicians and other professionals 7.7%
Other 28.7%

Graduate destinations data from the Higher Education Statistics Agency.


Further information

Written by Editor, Graduate Prospects
September 2015

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