Careers in Policy for Post-PhDs: 5 things you need to know

On the 25th of October, 2017, King’s College London played host to a panel of top policy experts, each of whom holds a doctorate. Hailing from a range of institutions and disciplinary backgrounds, the panelists discussed and took questions on moving into a career in policy after the PhD.

Wishing you could have attended? No fear; we have summarised the 5 things you need to know for policy careers and applications.

1. Need for policy experience:

Some experience in policy can be valuable but it’s just as important to have a breadth of experiences beyond research and teaching. All experience is valuable.

2. The value of a PhD:

The value of your PhD for a role in policy depends on the organisation you are applying for. Do your research before applying. Your PhD will be particularly useful in any role that involves interacting with academics.

3. Selection processes for policy jobs: 

Selection processes for policy roles can vary hugely. Everything from a CV and cover letter to a full multi-stage process. Prepare plenty of strong STAR examples for interview and try to speak to someone in a similar role or organisation.

4. Benefits of leaving academic research for a policy role: 

Leaving academia can bring more security and better rewards, with more regular hours. Promotion can also be easier and you can avoid the ‘echo chamber’ of academia and broaden your horizons and perspectives.

5. Disagreeing with your employers polices or decisions: 

This can happen, especially in civil service jobs. It is possible to make your arguments for a particular policy and their is a great deal of professional pride to be taken in presenting well constructed policy papers, even if your recommendations aren’t adopted.

6. A day in the life:  

There is a great deal of variety in the typical day of somebody working in policy, but there will be many meetings and individual discussions and you will need to be great at reviewing and writing documents as well as presenting. You may find yourself dealing with new tasks, such as finance or operational management, and learning about new systems within your organisation.

If you would like to attend a similar event, with industry experts on post-PhD career options, check out the full schedule of our “Beyond Academia” careers events.

Full details of our panelists: 

Ben Taylor – House of Lords

Ben Taylor currently works as Policy Analyst to the House of Lords Select Committee on Artificial Intelligence, and previously worked on the Select Committee on the Licensing Act 2003. Before joining the House of Lords in September 2016, he completed a PhD at King’s College London. His research focused on the history of scientific research and development at the Home Office, and its role in promoting new surveillance and intelligence-gathering techniques in British policing. He has previously worked as an AHRC research fellow at the Parliamentary Office of Science and Technology, in a role that saw him investigate the impact of big data in the age of social media.

Jennifer Stuart – Global Health Security Programme

Jennifer completed a PhD in Immunology and Infection at the University of Cambridge in 2015, where her research focused on mechanisms used by poxviruses to evade the immune system of their hosts. Following her PhD, Jennifer joined the Civil Service Science and Engineering Fast Stream, a cross-government graduate programme to ensure those with scientific skills and experience can support government policy and decision-making. On the Fast Stream she undertook a number of civil service roles, including at the Government Office for Science, and undertook a secondment at The Alan Turing Institute. Jennifer now works at the Department of Health as the Head of Vaccines and Biopreparedness for the Global Health Security Programme.

Mark Ewbank – Department of Communities and Local Government

Mark Ewbank is currently a Senior Policy Advisor at the Department of Communities and Local Government. Mark was previously Senior Clerk of the House of Commons Public Accounts Committee, Policy & Scrutiny Manager at the City of Westminster and a Research Fellow at the University of Southampton.  Mark read for his doctorate in Public Policy between October 2007 and March 2011 at the School of Government & Society at the University of Birmingham.

Adrian Baker – British Heart Foundation

Adrian is Policy Manager at the British Heart Foundation and former Head of Health and Social Care at techUK.  With more than ten years’ experience straddling policy, research, and strategy, Adrian worked at the Royal College of Nursing on a range of high profile issues and as a policy advisor for the London Health Board, chaired by previous Mayor of London Boris Johnson.  Adrian holds degrees from the London School of Economics, and was awarded the Colt Doctoral Fellowship for his PhD research at University College London into the diffusion of innovations in NHS Trusts.

Tim Marsh – Director at Food Matters (previous Head of Policy at the Women’s Institute).

Tim Marsh, is a Public Health Policy consultant, whose main interests are Obesity, Food Poverty, Agricultural policy and Public Health. His career has included policy roles at the UK Health Forum, National Federation of Women’s Institutes, UK Public Health Association and Child Poverty Action Group, acted as a technical advisor to the World Health Organisation, World Bank and the European Commission. He has been a Trustee of Sustain and the European Public Health and Agriculture Consortium.   He is co-author on over 30 peer reviewed publications.