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Career options contents. Career options for researchers. Are you unsure what to do next?

Career options for researchers

Do you see yourself as purely a specialist, and are overlooking potentially interesting career opportunities? It can be hard to know where to start and what opportunities are available, especially if you haven't worked in other employment sectors. Unlike undergraduates, doctoral candidates are not generally targeted by big employers with recruitment campaigns and not all careers services can offer specialist advice to researchers. Perhaps you are unsure whether you'd like to stay in the higher education sector or move away; whether to continue working in research or use your skills in another field. It's likely that most of your colleagues' work experience is limited to academic settings. Undecided? Undecided?


Undecided? Your PhD has opened the way to a whole range of opportunities. Although academia is a popular choice, the majority of postgraduate researchers choose to work outside of higher education, often in areas where they can use their specialist knowledge and skills. If you are undecided about which path you would like your career to take it is helpful to assess your skills, experience and values. Research versus non-research careers. Research careers Doctoral research training is challenging and thorough.

Research versus non-research careers

It is an ideal precursor for a career in academia or for research in sectors including: higher and further educationpublic and private research institutescommercial research companieshealth servicescentral and local government departmentstrade associations and think-tanks. What do researchers do? What do researchers do WDRD by subject Vitae Jun 2009. Downloads. Your PhD, what next? Opportunities for PhD graduates to build a career outside of academia are increasing.

Your PhD, what next?

Discover how to make your Doctorate work for you in the jobs market… What jobs can I do with a PhD? The most commonly held jobs for PhD graduates are: Although getting an academic job is common among PhD graduates, a greater number of opportunities exist outside of the teaching and education sector. Indeed, more than a quarter of PhD graduates work in the science and pharmaceuticals industry. Researcher career stories. Useful tools to assess your capabilities and expertise. Employers are likely to ask candidates to talk about themselves, their strengths and areas for development.

Useful tools to assess your capabilities and expertise

It can be easier to focus on areas for development than on your strengths; this difficulty can be more prevalent in some cultures than others. Having an accurate picture of how others perceive you and an understanding of yourself is vital to be able to talk with confidence and to sell yourself and the value you could add to a team, organisation or project.

Understanding yourself. Before researching possible career moves it is useful to spend time understanding yourself, including your capabilities, expertise and personal values.

Understanding yourself

Being self-aware can help you to plan development and make career decisions that are right for you. It’s important to know what you want from your career, what gives you fulfilment and the type of environments or work cultures you will thrive in. This can help you to target the type of professional development opportunities that will benefit you the most. Realise your talents Think about significant points of achievement or challenge in your life to dateWhy are they significant? Being aware of your values. Exploring career opportunities for researchers. Career opportunities for researchers are not always obvious or easy to find.

Exploring career opportunities for researchers

They cover a wide range of sectors including higher education, manufacturing, finance, business and IT, Health and public administration. Even if your goal is a career in academia, the sector is highly competitive and so it is important to explore additional career opportunities to be prepared for all eventualities. What do researchers do? In the UK, a majority of doctoral graduates are not working in academia three years after graduating. A Vitae report found that just 19% of doctoral graduate respondents were working within higher education (HE) research roles three and half years after graduation compared to 26% at six months after graduation.

New 'What do researchers want to do?' report now available! With a new Government innovation and research strategy published in December, Vitae is releasing new research based on views of over 4,500 researchers undertaking doctoral study in the UK.

New 'What do researchers want to do?' report now available!

This charts their career trajectories into postgraduate research and also their future career aspirations and how these are shaped by their experiences. ‘What do researchers want to do? 4374. Beyond the PhD. Working overseas. Experience of living and working abroad can help foster long-term collaborations (and friendships).

Working overseas

In some academic fields, working abroad is seen as an important factor for career progression. Finding a research position overseas Networking: a common way to find positions overseas is through networking. Actively ask academics you meet if they have any upcoming vacancies or talk to overseas visitors in your department. Academic career. Academic career If you are passionate about your subject, like and are good at research, love being within a university and want to share your knowledge with university students, then an academic career may be for you.

Academic career

Some academics focus primarily on teaching, some solely on research: many roles combine both. If you have the talent and motivation, here are some tips to increase your chances of progressing in academia: Pursuing an academic career. Many people aspire to an academic career after they complete their doctorate and/or work as a member of research staff. This is highly competitive as only a small percentage of doctoral graduates and research staff go on to have a long term career in academia. This percentage is highly variable by country and subject area.

To increase your chance of succeeding in academia you will need a good publications record, experience of teaching, administration, supervision experience, knowledge of funding opportunities, and ideally evidence of successful funding applications. An Academic Career (The University of Manchester) EURAXESS. Alternatives to an academic career. Alternatives to an academic career Some researchers relish working in an academic environment, but increasingly PGRs are exploring alternatives, either because they consider it wise to have a plan B or because they find the prospect of using their skills in a completely different organisation appealing. Some students are still reluctant to express interest in a non-academic career as they feel it is expected of them to continue on this path. However, the employment landscape has changed and there a surprising number of good options for a satisfying career. Your first thought might be to look for a research role outside academia that uses the full range of your skills.

However an increasing number of employers would welcome more applications from doctoral graduates and some are actively targeting them. Doctoral careers outside higher education. After a doctorate or post-doctoral contract, an academic career or other role in higher education may seem the most obvious next step in your career. However, look again. What do researchers do? Doctoral graduate destinations and impact three years on. Vitae, 2010 found that in the UK, only a minority of doctoral graduates (19%) work in higher education research (HE) roles three and a half years after graduating and 22% in HE teaching or lecturing. Researchers in Schools. RIS Researchers Brochure 2017. What do researchers do Career Profiles of doctoral entrepreneurs Vitae 2010.