Explore your careers options:postgraduate researchers

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If you are a postgraduate research (PGR) student looking at your future career there are probably lots of questions on your mind and lots of decisions to be made. For many, one of the biggest questions is whether to pursue a career in academia or move into something beyond academia.  

If these are issues you are pondering, remember that the University of Dundee Careers Service is here to help – we work closely with the Doctoral Academy to offer all PGR students a range of services including: 

  • Individual advice and guidance
  • Online information 
  • Support with applications and interviews 
  • A range of employer events and skills workshops 

Careers in academia

Careers in academia generally involve teaching, research or a mixture of both but the range of tasks and activities you will face in an academic job can be varied.

Getting an academic job

If you are considering following this pathway it’s helpful to be aware that academic positions are highly competitive and finding a permanent academic job immediately after your postgraduate research degree is very uncommon. Achieving this could take many years and involve building experience through a series of shorter-term contracts as research assistants/fellows.

With this is mind there are questions you may want to ask yourself:

  • Why do I want to be an academic?
  • Do I want this because of a clear passion for research and teaching? Or because I am unaware of the alternatives?
  • Am I more motivated for teaching or research? Do I know the direction I want to go in?
  • Am I open to moving around? Perhaps even internationally?

Top tips

If you have asked yourself these questions and you are clear that an academic career is your goal, you can enhance your chance of success through the following activities:

  • Establish a good publication record in peer-reviewed journals
  • Communicate your work nationally and internationally (for example: at conferences and symposia)
  • Network and collaborate – build professional contacts inside and outside your institution
  • Gain teaching responsibilities
  • Obtain funding – help write research grants or apply for your own when possible

For more information on pursuing an academic career Vitae  has many excellent resources while you can keep up to date with the latest academic opportunities at jobs.ac.uk

Careers outside academia

But what if you do not want to continue down the academic pathway? What options do you have as a graduate of a research degree?

Luckily, there is a vast array of career opportunities across a wide range of sectors to explore. In fact less than 20% of doctoral graduates were found to be working in academic research three and a half years after graduation.

You may want to continue research – but outside an academic setting. Examples include industry, the public sector, think tanks and commercial research organisations.

You may want to continue within higher education but not in an academic context. For example, management and administration, academic support, quality assurance or employability.

Or you may want to do something completely different. The majority of graduate jobs do not specify a degree subject for entry – so there are a range of options from finance to tech to government and the civil service!

Employers value many of the skills you bring as a researcher – it can therefore be useful taking some time to explore options and see what might be a good fit for you.

Think about your strengths, interests and values before spending time researching different jobs and developing your professional networks. This will help narrow down your options and allow you to focus on career paths which are most suitable for you.

Finally, there is a lot of really useful data and information available on what researchers do after their degree – this can be a great way to generate ideas and find inspiration!