Options with your PhD

As a researcher you develop skills that are highly sought after and transferable to many careers. This is reflected in the fact that the majority of doctoral graduates go on to work in a variety of careers beyond academia.

What do doctoral graduates do?

Every year the University surveys doctoral graduates six months after they graduate. Large numbers of PGRs go on to work in education (including Higher Education) doing a variety of different roles. Other sectors where PGRs have found work include research, manufacturing and health and social work.

Most common sectors (after education) broken down by discipline:

  • Arts - media, arts, entertainment and recreation, health and social work
  • Biomedical Sciences - health and social work, research, manufacturing
  • Engineering - manufacturing, engineering, I.T.
  • Health Sciences - health and social work, research, advertising and market research
  • Science - research, manufacturing, I.T.
  • Social Sciences and Law - public sector, research, accounting and management consultancy.

You can find out what doctoral graduates from your discipline have gone on to do 3.5 years after completing their doctorate from the Vitae report ‘What do Researchers Do’ (PDF, 1313kB).

Non-research roles within academia

If you enjoy working within a university and want to support students or academics, Professional/Support Services roles in Higher Education (HE) could be an option. Your skills are particularly transferable to these professions and your understanding of the HE environment is also an advantage.

Professional roles within universities could sit within Researcher Development, Public Engagement, Research Management, Careers Services, Research Commercialisation, Administration, Outreach/Widening Participation, Admissions and Technical Support, to name a few. Job sites such as jobs.ac.uk allow you to search for professional/managerial/support service roles across many HE institutions.

Working in research outside academia

Public, private and third sector organisations rely on research to identify new markets, understand their audiences or develop new products. Use our sector guides to identify which sectors may be more research-oriented and whereabouts in your chosen sector research is used. Different sectors have their own terminology for research roles, for example:

  • Cultural sector = ‘User Researcher’, ‘Audience Development Manager’, ‘Evaluation Consultant’ or ‘Insight Manager’
  • Science and Engineering sectors = ‘Research Assistant/Associate’, ‘Research Engineer/Scientist’, ‘Research Analyst’ or ‘Data Scientist’
  • Finance or business = ‘Data Analyst’, ‘Intelligence Analyst’, or ‘Consultant’
  • Voluntary or not for profit = ‘Prospect Researcher’, ‘Development/Fundraising Researcher’ or ‘Qualitative Researcher’
  • Third sector = ‘Medical Researchers’, ‘Social Researchers’, ‘Market Researchers’ and ‘Public Policy Researchers’.

Use our Finding a job page and the links below for more advice on looking for research roles outside of academia.

Research councils

You may be familiar with the Research Councils UK (RCUK) as funders of your research, but there are a range of jobs working for research councils which may appeal to PhD graduates, for example, in Records and Archives, Knowledge Exchange, or Project Support. All recruitment for the Research Councils is done via TopCareer.jobs. Useful links include:

Graduate schemes

Do not discount graduate schemes after your PhD, they are a great way to enter a sector and often provide fantastic training, a chance to explore different areas and support and mentoring. You will be competing with other graduates, but your additional experience and transferable skills could mean you progress quickly with the company afterwards. You can read about the difference between graduate jobs and graduate schemes in our blog post. 

There are very few companies which offer graduate schemes particularly for PhD graduates, but some are the GSK Esprit programmes and Boston Consulting Group. Other useful links include: