Career options with a PhD

Hi everyone – we’re back! This time with a guest post from our Careers Consultant Donald Lush about the career options available for PhD students.

Any search on google using the title of this blog will quickly turn up articles and tips that feature the word ‘non-academic’ or ‘alternative’. This is symptomatic of an important issue. Even now, when academic jobs are so competitive, leaving academia is seen as an alternative, as not something that you signed up for.

The truth is most PhDs, even those who go on to post-doctoral research positions, eventually leave academic research. In 2010, the Royal Society published a famously frightening report which revealed that only 0.45% of science PhDs go on to become professors.  That’s not to say that many don’t have rewarding careers in research but it starkly illustrates how the opportunities reduce as you progress.

The good news is that unemployment is very low among PhDs and your skills in problem solving, project management and communication are highly valued by all employers. A great deal of professional life in all occupations consists of trying to figure out what to do next. This is exactly what you have been trained to do, to a very high standard. You are also experts in acquiring new knowledge. If you need to learn something for a role, you will be able to do so quickly. Again, these are skills that all employers love to have in their teams.

Even if you don’t stay in academic life, there’s a good chance you will want stay close to research and continue to contribute to society in some way you find valuable. The kinds of careers we see a lot of interest in are:

  • Academic publishing
  • Professional roles in higher education
  • Communication, writing, broadcasting, research engagement
  • Management consultancy
  • Public policy
  • Data science
  • Banking, accounting and finance

There are people with PhDs in all walks of professional life. If you want to find out more, here are some useful links:

  • The website has ten great suggestions, plus a wealth of careers workbooks, CV templates and advice
  • Vitae, the national organisation that supports researchers, has some excellent research on career paths and on careers in general

Thanks again to Donald for his blog post for all PhD students or graduates considering their options! For more information on options for PhDs, useful resources, and more, have a look on the King’s Career Kit.