But What if I Don’t Want to Work in Academia? Alternative Career Paths for After Your PhD | FindAPhD.com
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Posted on 31 Mar '22

But What if I Don’t Want to Work in Academia? Alternative Career Paths for After Your PhD

Picture this: you’re halfway through your PhD when you realise you don’t want to work in academia. Day after day you watch the postdocs going about their business and you know it just isn’t for you. No need to panic!

Your PhD has equipped you with so many transferable skills and I’m going to detail some of the non-academic careers that your skills will translate well into, regardless of your subject area. This is by no means an exhaustive list, but these ideas should get you thinking about the other careers on offer to you.

Communication roles

I know what you’re thinking – don’t all jobs involve communication? Well, technically yes but in this case, I mean jobs which revolve around communication in written or spoken form. During your PhD you’ll have developed excellent written communication through writing sections of your thesis. No doubt you’ll also have great spoken communication after giving what feels like millions of presentations on your research at meetings with your research group or at conferences.

Both written and spoken communication are directly transferable into a huge range of careers. Depending on what your PhD is in, you’ll be more suited to some roles over others. Below is a list of a few careers to give you some inspiration:

  • Science communication, patents or science policy for those in STEM.
  • Editorial work or public engagement for those in the Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences.
  • Publishing, marketing or consultancy for anyone with a PhD. These are careers which have huge variation in the roles, meaning regardless of your subject area you’ll find a role to suit your interests!

Management roles

By the time you’ve finished your PhD you’ll be a management master, skilfully able to balance your time between research, analysis and writing, in time to hit your deadlines. At least, when you need to. Not to mention, you’ll be used to working on a research team (to a greater or lesser degree depending on your subject area) so managing and working with a team shouldn’t seem too daunting!

There are many variations of management so will appeal to people across subjects, but all are based on managing something, whether that’s people, money, time or resources. If you’re interested in management, take a look at the list below and do some research. There really are a lot of different management positions, including:

  • Event management
  • Product management
  • Line management
  • Financial management or technical support management, which may be best suited to those in STEM

Analytical roles

During your PhD you’ll certainly be used to dealing with tonnes of data, whether it’s literature or numerical data, so you’ll have very developed analytical skills. If analysing data is what you’re all about, why not analyse other people’s data professionally as an analyst? There are many variations of analytical careers to suit any subject, including:

  • Environmental analyst
  • Business analyst
  • Market research
  • Data science or financial analyst for those in STEM

Specialist roles

You chose to study for a PhD in your subject because you love it, right? So, it makes sense to consider careers outside academia that still require your specialist knowledge. Over the course of your undergraduate degree, (possibly) Masters degree and your PhD you’ll have developed so much technical knowledge in your subject that would be essential for certain roles. Naturally, these jobs are very different depending on your subject are but below are a few examples:

  • Teaching in a secondary school or college
  • Industry research, including think tanks for those in Arts and Humanities and pharmaceutical or engineering companies for those in STEM
  • Medical science liaison or NHS work for biologists
  • Museum and curatorial work for those in Arts and Humanities

And so many more ...

There is a whole world of career paths open to you after completing your PhD so go and explore them! Don’t be scared to approach people who work in your career of interest (virtually or in person, through most likely virtually these days) and ask them questions about their job. Most people will be more than happy to have a chat about it.

If you do decide to apply for non-academic roles, focus on selling the transferable skills you’ve developed during your PhD, including the fact you wrote a huge thesis, which is an impressive show of dedication, if nothing else! I hope this has provided some insight into some of the other career opportunities out there – best of luck with your career hunt!

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Last Updated: 31 March 2022