Opportunities for PhD graduates to build a career outside of academia are increasing. Discover how to make your Doctorate work for you in the jobs market…

What jobs can I do with a PhD?

The most commonly held jobs for PhD graduates are:

  • clinical psychologists
  • biochemists and medical scientists
  • higher education teaching professionals
  • medical practitioners
  • university researchers.

Although getting an academic job is common among PhD graduates, a greater number of opportunities exist outside of the teaching and education sector. Indeed, more than a quarter of PhD graduates work in the science and pharmaceuticals industry. This has perhaps been helped by private sector companies becoming more research-orientated in recent years.

If you have aspirations to become a clinical psychologist or educational psychologist you'll need to study for a specific taught Doctorate in clinical (DClinPsy or ClinPsyD) or educational (DEdPsy) psychology respectively.

How do I get started in academia?

PhD graduates often struggle to gain a permanent academic job immediately. To give yourself the best chance, contact as many other academics as possible in your specialist field. You may then be presented with the opportunity to become a teaching fellow or research fellow, though this is likely to be on a short-term contract with a view to permanent employment.

You may find opportunities on individual university websites, but see getting an academic job for more information and advice.

How do I get a non-academic job?

There are many ways to boost your chances of landing a non-academic job. You should:

  • build a network of contacts to help you unearth 'hidden' job vacancies
  • gain relevant work experience in your chosen field
  • search for graduate jobs
  • use social media to join in discussions with like-minded academics, and share your research and opinions.

It's 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 how your knowledge and expertise will benefit the employer. Focus on the transferable skills that the PhD has helped to enhance, such as:

  • communication skills - you'll have given many presentations or lectures
  • creative thinking - PhD students are often asked to think outside the box
  • management ability - as well as managing your own time and workload, you may have managed a small team of research assistants or mentored undergraduate students
  • problem-solving abilities - during your PhD, you'll have tackled and solved numerous research problems.

For more information, see CVs and cover letters.

What do other PhD graduates do?

Of the PhD graduates in employment six months after graduation, around a third works as a higher education teaching professional or a university researcher. The majority therefore choose to pursue non-academic careers.

Working and studying2.9
PhD graduate destinations
Type of workPercentage
Science professionals29.4
Education professionals23.3
Health professionals12.5
Business, research and admin professionals8.1
Types of work entered in the UK

PhD destinations data from the Higher Education Statistics Agency.