Doctoral careers outside higher education

After a doctorate or post-doctoral contract, an academic career or other role in higher education may seem the most obvious next step in your career. However, look again. What do researchers do? Doctoral graduate destinations and impact three years on. Vitae, 2010 found that in the UK, only a minority of doctoral graduates (19%) work in higher education research (HE) roles three and a half years after graduating and 22% in HE teaching or lecturing. Most of the rest have moved into roles outside HE in sectors such as healthcare, education, engineering and business.

Perhaps you are one of the minority who will successfully achieve an academic career. If not, the knowledge, competencies and experience gained during your time in research, as well as personal strengths and preferences, may suggest possible future career-paths. For example you might excel at scientific writing, enjoy analysing large data sets or have found your feet in presenting to the public.

Think about your values and motivations as well as the opportunities realistically open to you given your strengths, skills and personal situation.

Know what employers are looking for, how your skill-set matches this and how to articulate your strengths. If you find gaps in what you have to offer, make a development plan.

Consider job shadowing or gaining paid and voluntary work experience as this can give you an insight into a different sector or discipline and increase your likelihood of getting the type of job that you want.

Read more about opportunities for researchers outside HE.