PhD Careers: What to do after your PhD?

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What does life hold after completing a PhD? Well, according to research conducted by Vitae, prospects are good according to their 2013 publication, What Do Researchers Do? Early career progression of doctoral graduates.

What are my options?

Your specific career path upon graduation will depend on a number of factors, including the subject area in which you are studying, but the research shows that nearly half of doctoral graduates go on to work in higher education sector (44%).

However, many other employers value the knowledge and skills that PhD students develop during the course of their research shown by the fact that the other half was divided between the worlds of finance, business and IT (11%); health and social work (13%); manufacturing (9%); R&D (7%) ; non-HE education (6%) and public administration (4%).

Research – academic and commercial

A common route into academic research is to gain a postdoctoral research post or fellowship after completing your PhD. These are generally contracted posts for a determined length of time and will either be an advertised post on an existing research programme or in the form of a fellowship award to fund your own research in a particular area. These posts are usually seen as stepping stones into a permanent post at a university or in industry.

A permanent academic post usually takes the form of a lectureship, which also involves teaching. Permanent research-only posts are rare in universities, but do also exist in research institutes or other organisations affiliated with universities.

Industry research positions for science graduates are found in sectors such as energy, technology, pharmaceutical and biological sciences and are advertised on and in publications.


A postdoctoral research post is also a common route into a lectureship, and any teaching you get to do while studying for your PhD or in your postdoctoral posts will serve you well when applying. Be aware, however, that a lecturer is usually expected to undertake research in their specialist area. Their time is often split between teaching, research and publishing their findings in academic journals. A significant number of doctoral graduates go on to teach in schools. However, a postgraduate certificate in education (PGCE) will still be a requirement for anyone considering teaching in a state school.

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