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Enhancing my employability as a doctoral graduate

Find out what you can do during your doctorate to maximise your employability when you graduate.

Employability and your career development

There are a range of different reasons why you may be doing a doctorate.

People undertake doctoral research for a variety of different reasons, including passion for research or the subject area, to pursue a career in academia or because it is needed for career progression or your chosen career path.

Whatever your reasons for undertaking a doctorate, there is value in considering where the doctorate might lead, and ensuring you’re developing the necessary skills, knowledge, attributes and experience for your chosen career path.

Activities that enhance your employability

There are a variety of different activities that you may be involved which provide lots of transferable skills.

Undertaking doctoral research will develop many of the skills employers in a range of sectors are looking for, including problem-solving, creativity, team-working, analysing data, communicating complex ideas to a range of audiences and negotiating and influencing and managing up (think your relationship with your supervisor and relationships with any external partners).

In addition you should aim to develop these transferable skills through getting involved in a range of activities alongside your doctorate. Here’s a list of activities you could get involved in:

  • undertake work experience alongside your doctoral programme – test out potential career options, build your skills in a different context and develop commercial awareness
  • be active in your field through participating in and organising conferences and seminars
  • take a vertically integrated project - innovative research and applied learning projects giving you the opportunity to work in inter-disciplinary, multi-level teams of students to work with a member of academic staff on long-term real-world projects - great for developing team-working skills and evidence of working on short-term projects and projects beyond your discipline
  • learn about intrapreneurship and work on a real-world project with a company
  • gain different skills and experience through volunteering
  • take on a leadership role, whether through being on a Departmental Committee or within a student society
  • build experience of communicating your research to wider audiences, through public engagement, activities such as Three Minute Thesis, Snap your Doctorate, and involvement in outreach activities
  • connect with people beyond your discipline through Aquae Sulis and Doctoral Exchange
  • develop business acumen and think about broader applications of your research through enterprise and entrepreneurship.
  • develop leadership and people-management skills through teaching, peer-mentoring and supervising project students.
  • get involved with the learned society or professional body related to your field – great for widening professional networks and contributing more widely to your field.

For more ideas, see the Doctoral College’s web page on managing your professional development, and see here for some case studies of doctoral students who have got involved in a range of activities during their doctorate.

Taking opportunities as they come along will help you develop awareness of your strengths and what’s most important to you in work and life. Make sure you record your skills and experiences along the way so you have them to hand when you come to write your CV.

The doctoral career path

Doctoral students go on to a variety of different career paths.

Doctoral graduates go into a wide range of career paths, and statistically the majority of doctoral graduates won’t go on to pursue a long term academic career, which is why developing skills outside of research is highly valuable.

If you’re aiming to pursue a career in academia, start building experience and awareness of what careers in academia involve throughout your doctorate. The Careers Service’s Get Started Guide for Researchers has information on careers in academia, and you should also talk to your supervisor and other academics in your Department about what they do and how to be build an academic profile.

There’s an increased emphasis on collaboration between academia and other sectors, so some of the activities listed above, such as Knowledge Exchange, research commercialisation, building wider networks and communicating research to wider audiences – will be useful whether you work in academia or elsewhere.

Your researcher skills will be valued across a range of sectors; there are lots of other areas – such as industrial science and engineering, working for the research councils, academic publishing, data science, policy and patent work -where a PhD will be essential or highly desirable. Take the opportunity to research the options available to you, find out what Bath doctoral graduates have gone to do, read careers stories of other researchers, and connect with Bath alumni through Bath Connection. Employers recognise that doctoral graduates are particularly strong on problem-solving, research and analytical skills, but may view you as weaker on team-working and commercial awareness, so look for ways to build these through your doctorate.