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What are my career options with a PhD?

We look at the many career opportunities available to PhD graduates, from policy to science communication.

Academia

This is the obvious choice for anyone with a PhD, in any subject. You've already spent three or four years working hard on your research and will hopefully have managed to publish a journal paper during that time. It's also likely that you will have built up a lot of contacts in academia, due to networking events and presenting at conferences (not to mention your supervisors). 

If you're still as excited about your research as you were when you first started the PhD, then a postdoctoral position is a great option to consider. This is the first step you'll need to undertake if you're committed to a career in academia. 

Find postdoctoral opportunities at the University of Edinburgh

Our Research

 

Consultancy

People working at laptops

Management consultancy allows scientists to apply their analytical and reasoning skills to solving problems for clients. 

Strong candidates for management consultancy need to demonstrate excellent communication skills and the ability to work well in a team. An additional degree in business is not essential for many roles, as most companies will provide you with any extra training you might need once you start work. 

You could find yourself working for a general consultancy which has a science department, or you might choose to apply to a specialist scientific consultancy. Just be aware that while consultancy pays very well, the sector does have a reputation for long hours. 

 

Communication and Outreach

If you decide that one of the things you enjoyed most about your PhD were the opportunities you had to present your research to others, then a career in science communication and engagement might be for you. 

Typical jobs in this area might include event managers (organising science festivals or schools events), museum education officers and even freelance science writers or journalists. Whichever role you decide on, it's likely that you'll spend a lot of your time honing your communication skills by presenting scientific knowledge to the general public in fun and interesting ways. 

You'll make yourself a stronger candidate by seeking out volunteering opportunities, such as running science clubs or organising outreach events. It's also an idea to start entering science writing competitions and see whether you can get a few wins under your belt. 

However, if you'd really like to bolster your CV and stand out from the crowd, you may want to consider applying for a Masters in Science Communication. We offer on-campus and online masters degrees in this area - just click the links below for more information. 

MSc Science Communication and Public Engagement (online)

MSc Science Communication and Public Engagement (on-campus)

Student blog - Why I decided to apply for an on-campus Masters

 

Publishing

The world of scientific publishing can be extremely competitive, so having a PhD can really help to stand you in good stead when an employer is sifting through CVs and applications.

Typical roles within science publishing include producers, proofreaders, editors and copy editors. Publishers such as Springer Nature, Wiley and Bloomsbury Sigma represent some of the biggest names in the field of scientific publishing. 

Note that many of these companies are based in South East England, so if you're living elsewhere in the UK or abroad then you may need to consider relocating. 

 

Intellectual Property and Patent Law

If you've always had a side interest in the law then you could potentially move into the field of intellectual property and patent law. 

Patent attorneys assess new inventions, while patent examiners use various technical and legal skills to assess patent applications. These roles are particularly well-suited to science PhDs as they require very little in the way of additional training. 

If you're looking for something different in the legal sector then you might need to start thinking about an additional postgraduate degree to help bolster your CV. 

 

Policy

Science policy involves applying scientific knowledge to assisting in the formulation of government policy. Policy work covers many industries within the public, private and voluntary sectors. 

For example, you may find yourself working for a non-governmental organisation (NGO), a government department or a charity. A typical day might involve drafting reports and writing briefing papers, so you'll need to demonstrate strong written communication skills. 

The analytical skills you gain from your PhD will help you to identify policy issues and collect relevant scientific data to include in your reports. 

Some of our popular programmes which can help to develop future policymakers:

man teaching in classroom

MSc Global Health and Infectious Diseases

Master of Public Health

MSc One Health

 

Primary or Secondary School Teaching

As well as moving into academia, you might also consider teaching in a primary school or a high school, helping to shape the next generation of young minds. 

Remember that no matter what your postgraduate qualification, you will have to undergo teacher training and earn a teaching qualification. Bursaries are available to help you fund living costs and expenses while you study. 

Get Into Teaching website

 

Related Links

Alternative Careers in Medicine - Where Can Your PhD Take You? #3

How A Masters Degree Can Help Your Career

PhD Programmes