New directions

Many inviting and rewarding careers options don’t involve research. Here are some possibilities to consider.

Research – whether in higher education, or elsewhere – isn’t the only option open to you after your doctorate. Follow our suggestions to generate ideas of alternative career paths. 

Skills developed during your PhD 

Throughout your PhD you’ll have been involved in activities in addition to your research – and you may have enjoyed them and developed some expertise.  For example: 

  • did your PhD require you to develop skills in software programming? 

  • did you help organise a seminar series or conference? 

  • were you involved in public engagement activities such as Edinburgh Science Festival or bringing your research into schools? 

  • have you written articles, book reviews, or blogs? 

  • did you informally supervise Honours or masters students, or spend your time demonstrating some technique you were the resident ‘expert’ in? 

Many PhD graduates have in the past taken this additional experience and built on it to develop their career in a different direction such as software developer, conference organiser, science communicator, technical writer or journalist, research staff trainer - to name a few roles linked to the examples above. 

Important questions which may help you to decide if you would like to pursue a new direction are: 

  • are there things you do as part of your PhD that you enjoy perhaps more than the research? 

  • do jobs exist that match up with what you are doing? 

  • what do they require in terms of qualifications, experience and skills? 

  • how much experience do you have in your additional area of interest or how well-developed do you feel are those specific skills? 

  • are there opportunities to get more involved or further develop skills to fill any gaps in your experience? You may wish to look at some of the training courses offered by the university or other providers. 

Using your subject knowledge 

The subject area of your research may link naturally to other industry sectors, giving you the opportunity to keep an interest in your research subject but perhaps apply it in a very different way. There will be obvious links you can make - but others may be less clear. To help you consider what opportunities may be available here are some examples. 

  • History of Art leading to the museum or gallery sector – examples of roles could include arts administrator, education officer, or curator. 

  • cancer research, or other health-related research, leading to relevant voluntary sector organisations (e.g. Cancer Research UK or British Heart Foundation) or the NHS – examples of roles could include communications officer, policy adviser, health promotion specialist. 

  • Geosciences leading to the oil or renewable energy industry, or to a museum or visitor experience, such as Dynamic Earth. 

  • English literature or language leading to careers in the publishing or advertising sectors. 

Ask colleagues in your research group or department if they know of any organisations which could link to your subject area in this way, or book an appointment to talk it over with a Careers Consultant. 

Graduate recruitment 

Many employers in the UK recruit graduates on the basis of the skills,  interest  and motivation they bring to a job rather than the level or subject of their qualification. You could therefore consider a wide range of career areas which are unrelated to your experience to date but match the skills you have developed and in which you are interested. To start exploring this as an option, 

  • explore the types of graduate jobs available by looking at vacancies on MyCareerHub and graduate job sites such as Prospects. 

  • use the information in our Understand Yourself pages to help you to assess your interest in any of the jobs you note. 

  • check out our Explore types of jobs and employers pages for advice on how to get a clearer idea of what each involves. 

MyCareerHub opportunities 

Understand yourself 

Explore types of jobs and employers