Cancer Research UK

Cancer Research UK logoCancer Research UK is the world's leading independent charity dedicated to cancer research. We carry out scientific research to help prevent, diagnose and treat cancer. We have discovered new ways to beat cancer that together have saved hundreds of thousands of lives across the world.

Is there a different entry point for employees with a postgraduate degree? 

We don’t currently have a specific entry route for Masters and PhD students specifically – but there are lots of opportunities for them to enter alongside other candidates. We run a graduate scheme twice a year where many students have done postgraduate studies – some of our successful Research and Innovation graduates come to us with a PhD so they can bring those skills to us. There are some roles where having a Masters qualification or PhD degree are seen as desirable traits that can give candidates the edge – with research funding, research and health information and our more science based roles.

What are the benefits to you in hiring employees with a Masters or PhD?

Particularly within our science and research based roles, we find that postgraduate students can really bring a lot to these roles over undergraduate students. Often they are much closer to the research and so can really bring their own perspective to roles. In particular, many of our roles are about translating complex information into accessible and easy to understand information for a non-technical audience – it’s important that employees doing the roles have that better understanding to be able to interpret. Outside of science, students with further qualifications can benefit as often postgraduate experiences may be more specialist – whereas undergraduate degrees are usually more general.

Do you encounter any challenges with employees with a Masters or PhD?

One of the biggest challenges is where postgraduate students rely solely on their postgraduate qualifications – it’s important to have had some work experience alongside their studies. Even if this is a summer job or part-time restaurant role this provides candidates with a strong work ethic and a solid understanding of the world of work. We sometimes find that research or science graduates who come straight from the bench can take longer to adjust to the way CRUK operates.

What skills, knowledge and expertise do you look for in applicants with a Masters or PhD? 

As a postgraduate qualification means candidates are more specialist, we find that their passion for the subject matter is much stronger so they can be clearer on their career trajectory – our Fundraising & Marketing graduate scheme attracts more generalist degrees as there is an opportunity to try out different specialities. However, those with a postgraduate marketing qualification may do just as well by coming directly into a marketing position with us – this is what they want to do and can get started straight away.

Thinking about the direction your organisation is heading in and changes in the wider sector, how do you envisage your hiring strategy changing in the next 10 years?  What skills, knowledge and expertise will you be looking for in new employees/postgraduates? 

As an organisation we are looking to focus our recruitment on an individual’s potential more than solely performance. This is a good opportunity for postgraduate students to draw upon their studies to show the impact their work has, and evidence this in their applications. Potential is important to CRUK so we can future proof our organisation – those with potential are more likely to have more opportunities and more room to grow so we can develop and retail them as future leaders.

With regards to skills we will be looking for, as an organisation we are looking for 3 in 4 people to survive cancer by 2034. To achieve this we need to be more forward thinking – particularly in our approach to technology. Digitally the world is evolving and CRUK needs to keep up so that we can continue to do our cutting edge work. We operate a hub and spoke model at CRUK so we can ensure our staff are technologically self-sufficient in order to deliver our key messages – this can include anything from agile working projects, to tracking our audiences through Google Analytics.


Thank you to Suzie Huggan, Talent Acquisition Partner for retail for this case study.


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