Career options for researchers

Probably the most common question researchers ask careers advisers is 'What are the options after my PhD/current research contract?' This can be a tricky question to answer in general terms, and you should take a look at the discipline specific pages to see the range of options related to your subject.

Broadly speaking, the options are:


  • A non-academic job within Higher Education- in administration, policy, research management, training, student support or project management. See to get an idea of the types of roles available.
  • A job outside of research but related to the subject area of your research, for example as a medical writer, teacher or sales representative for scientists, or a teacher, journalist or a role in government for social scientists.
  • A job outside of your subject area but using some of the technical or transferable skills you have used as part of your research, for example, using your project management skills in management consultancy, using numerical skills in the financial sector, using writing and editing skills in journalism or publishing.

Essentially, you could do anything. As a doctoral student or postdoctoral researcher you are eligible to apply to one of the many graduate schemes or graduate jobs. There are a small number of schemes which offer a PhD entry level route, for example within management consultancy (with companies such as Mckinsey or The Boston Consulting group), banking (with the Bank of England or investment banks including JP Morgan) and industrial research organisations (GSK, Astra Zeneca, BP). If you want to branch out further beyond your subject area (into landscape design..?) you may well need to do some further training or gain experience. Changing career direction is hardly ever an instant switch, which is why forward planning is so important.

You'll need to do some research to find out more about the different options available. The resources below are useful starting points:

  • 10 Career Paths for PhDs - e-book outlining some common career options for researchers
  • Discipline-specific web pages for researchers.
  • Prospects website.
  • Professional bodies and learned societies - these are often great sources of career information, advice, industry insights and contacts.
  • Bath Connection - an online networking tool to allow you to contact Bath graduates who have said that they are willing to talk to Bath students and graduates about their job role, their employer and diversity issues.
    For research students - find out more about Bath Connection.
    For research staff if you're also a Bath graduate - find out more about Bath Connection.
    For research staff if you're not also a Bath graduate - find out more about Bath Connection - and note that you will need to email to request access, stating that you are a member of research staff.
  • Career stories - a useful source of inspiration and insights into others' career paths.
    Researchers' career stories are available on the Vitae website.
    Voices of Experience provides case studies from former PhD students at the University of Southampton.
    PhD Career Guide has podcast interviews with former PhD students about their career paths.
    From PhD to Life has Transitional Q & As with former PhD students.
    PhDs At Work provides 'Week in the Life' stories of former PhD students.