An Academic Career

Consider the alternatives

There are other options

Some academics assume that if you are undertaking doctoral research, you must be aiming for an academic career; anything else would be second best (or even 'failure').

In reality, PhDs have found success in many walks of life, from running countries and businesses, to writing novels and walking on the moon.

This section offers ways of exploring the alternatives, whether you are determined to have an academic career, but realise it is wise to consider having a Plan B, or are seriously thinking that academia is not for you.

If you considering an alternative to becoming an academic, are their particular aspects of an academic career which you still find attractive?

  • Research - also consider research roles in science and industry, in business (think tanks, consultancies, marketing research) or the public or not-for-profit sector (local or regional government research roles, research officer roles in public bodies, charities and NGOs).
  • Education - also consider school or Further Education teaching or other specialist educational roles (eg. Educational psychologist, special educational needs coordinator) or teaching in non-school settings such as prisons.
  • The university environment - consider working in a university in a non-academic role. Universities employ many people who are not academics, from finance managers to research or student support officers.

If you want to consider jobs completely unrelated to academia, the Prospects website has a free on-line careers guidance package, based around graduate level types of work. This may suggest alternatives which you had not considered.

If you want to discuss alternative career options, contact your university careers service. Most careers services are very happy to see postgraduates and will give you the chance to discuss, in confidence, what you could do after your PhD.


Support at The University of Manchester

The University of Manchester runs an annual event, Pathways, in June specifically to explore the range of career options open to doctoral researchers. This three day event includes discussion panels of researchers now in a wide range of academic and non-academic careers, careers workshops and an employer fair.

A number of places are made available to researchers from other universities at a modest fee to cover catering and materials. Some universities cover this cost for their researchers.

Careers Service support

University of Manchester doctoral researchers are welcome to use the Careers Service to explore alternative career options. In particular, a one-to-one careers appointment will offer you the chance to discuss your ideas and any concerns about your career, without any pressure to stay within (or move out of) academia.