Non-academic career options

In the past a PhD was considered to be training for an academic career; however these days a PhD is recognised by a huge range of employers as a sign that you are hard-working and have strong analytical, project management, and communication skills. This gives PhD graduates the option to apply for a variety of higher-level jobs.

Identifying your interests

When considering future career options, it can help to start by looking at yourself: your interests, your values and what really makes you tick. This can then help you to evaluate and narrow down your options. Any feedback, report or results that you get from taking a self-assessment exercise can also be a useful starting point for a one-to-one career guidance appointment. 

  • Find out more about what motivates you and what careers might suit you by taking a ‘Profiling for Success’ self-assessment (sign-in required). The ‘Career Interest Inventory’ will look at where your interests lie in terms of six broad ‘career themes.’ The job suggestions won’t be PGR-specific and may not all seem relevant, but it can give you an idea of what kinds of broad work activities and environments might suit you. Meanwhile, the ‘Values-based Indicator of Motivation’ is designed to identify the things that matter to you most so that you can use these as a reference point when researching potential career options

  • This Making Careers Choices Canvas course could also help 

  • Careers Network run a range of 'Know Your...' workshops to help you identify your motivations, your strenghts and skills and your personality type, and how this might help you to identify potential career options

Exploring your options

There are numerous opportunities available outside of academia that will also enable you to use your research skills or specialist subject knowledge. Research careers are available in industry and in the public sector, where typical examples include: commercial research and development; scientific, engineering, or social research; and technical or business consulting.

Another much broader option is to explore opportunities open to you based on your interests and the range of transferable skills that you have developed rather than your area of research.

The following web sites provide further information about the range of possible careers available to you and may help you to consider your options.

Marketing yourself

Many PhD researchers underestimate what they can offer to an employer outside of academia; as a result, you may be unsure about how to identify your selling points. One the other hand, you may fear that you will be considered 'overqualified' for non-academic career options that do not require a PhD at the first entry-point. If you are looking for advice on how to market yourself to employers effectively, then you might like to discuss this with the PGR Careers Adviser, or check out our Application advice pages for further information. 

Other resources that might help you to articulate your skills and experience to non-academic employers include this presentation on how to market yourself outside of academia by Chris Humphrey from Jobs on Toast and this article by Dr Nathalie Mather L'Huillier which includes some practical examples of how to 'translate' your academic experiences into skills that employers are seeking.

Starting your own business

For some of you, running your own business may be an attractive option. If you feel that you have an idea that is commercially viable then support is available from B-Enterprising. Information is also available from the following web sites:

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