Beyond the Ivory Tower: What to Do After Your PhD

what to do after phd

If you’ve recently earnt your PhD (or you’re just on the verge of finishing) you may be wondering what to do next.

But before that, congratulations! By completing your PhD you’ve achieved something remarkable, probably spilling a lot of blood, sweat and tears (although we hope not literally) along the way.

But now what? The question is, what to do after your PhD?

The good news is that there are plenty of options open to you. While many PhD graduates do pursue careers in academia, there are a variety of other career paths available. In this article, we’ll explore the different options in front of you and offer tips on how to achieve career success beyond the walls of the ivory tower.

The Current State of PhDs in the Job Market

We can’t deny it – the job market for PhD graduates has become increasingly competitive in recent years. According to a report by the National Science Foundation, only about 40% of PhD graduates in science, engineering, and health find academic jobs within five years of completing their degree. This means that the majority of PhD graduates must look for jobs outside of academia.

Assessing Your Skills and Interests: What Are Your Career Goals?

Before you start your job search, it is important to assess your skills and interests to determine what career paths may be a good fit for you.

  • Begin by identifying your strengths and weaknesses, as well as the skills you have developed during your PhD program. There are probably going to be a lot more of these than you realise. Noting it all down will help you organise your thoughts, and perhaps reveal the way to your future career.
  • Consider what types of work you enjoy and what motivates you. This can help you identify potential career paths that align with your interests and strengths.
  • Reflect on which elements of your PhD you did (or did not) enjoy. Sophie Milbourne of Soph Talks Science discovered that she wanted to become a science communicator thanks to a single presentation during her early academic career.

Career Paths Beyond Academia: Exploring Non-Academic Jobs

There are a variety of career paths available to PhD graduates outside of academia. Some popular options include science writing, science policy, consulting, and data science.

Science writing or science communication involves communicating scientific concepts to a general audience through various media, such as articles, books, podcasts and even social media.

Science policy involves working with government agencies and organisations to develop and implement policies related to science and technology.

Consulting involves providing expert advice to businesses and organizations on a variety of topics, such as strategy, management, and marketing.

Data science involves using statistical and computational methods to analyse and interpret large datasets.

The heritage sector offers lots of opportunities to those who have studied arts and humanities, particularly through work in museums, galleries and events.

Networking and Job Search Strategies: How to Find Your Dream Job

Networking is an essential part of any job search. Start by reaching out to your academic contacts, such as professors, advisors, and peers, to let them know you are looking for a job. Attend networking events and conferences in your field to meet potential employers and learn about job opportunities. Online networking platforms, such as LinkedIn, can also be a useful tool for connecting with professionals in your field.

When searching for jobs, be sure to customise your resume and cover letter for each position you apply for. Research the company or organisation and tailor your application materials to highlight how your skills and experiences align with their needs. Be prepared for phone and in-person interviews, and practise your interviewing skills with friends or colleagues.

Want to hear how Ashley Ruba landed her dream job in UX research after a prestigious academic career? Check out our advice-packed interview with her!

Tips for Job Interviews and Negotiating Your Salary

During the interview process, be sure to highlight your skills and experiences that are most relevant to the position. Prepare answers to common interview questions, such as “Tell me about yourself” and “What are your strengths and weaknesses?” Be ready to ask questions of your own, such as “What are the key challenges facing the company?” and “What are the opportunities for growth and advancement?”

It’s important to connect your academic experience to the specific role you’re applying for. Talk up transferrable skills and don’t be afraid to discuss any challenges you overcame during your PhD – the fact that you overcame them can help illustrate your tenacity and determination.

When negotiating your salary, do your research to determine the average salary for someone with your qualifications and experience. Be prepared to make a case for why you deserve a higher salary, based on your skills and the value you can bring to the company.

Starting Your Own Business: Entrepreneurship as an Option

If you have an entrepreneurial spirit, starting your own business may be an attractive option. Consider using your PhD expertise to start a consulting firm, write a book, or, just like Dr Charles Roddie, develop a new product or service. Starting a business can be challenging, but it can also be rewarding and provide you with greater control over your career.

Further Education: Pursuing a Postdoctoral Fellowship, MBA or Other Graduate Degrees

If you are interested in furthering your education, consider pursuing a postdoctoral fellowship, MBA, or other graduate degree. Postdoctoral fellowships are often available in academic and non-academic settings and provide opportunities for further research and professional development. An MBA can provide you with business acumen and management skills that can be useful in a variety of fields. Other graduate degrees, such as a law degree or a master’s degree in public health, can also expand your career options.

Making the Most of Your PhD and Achieving Career Success

As you can see, there are a variety of career paths available to PhD graduates beyond academia. By assessing your skills and interests, networking, and using job search strategies, you can find a career that aligns with your goals and provides opportunities for growth and advancement.

Want to hear from academics who have done exactly that? Have a listen to The Research Beat podcast – its’s a treasure trove of academic success stories absolutely bursting with career inspiration.

And whether you choose to start your own business, pursue further education, or enter a non-academic field, always remember to make the most of your PhD expertise in order to achieve career success.

Keep striving, researchers! ✨

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