Careers Help for Postgraduates and Contract Researchers
This information is designed to help postgraduates and contract researchers to achieve their career aims after they complete their courses or research.
Skills gained through
Applications & interviews
for academic jobs
Applications & interviews
for other jobs
- Links &
Because of the range of postgraduate study opportunities: from an MBA, to a Humanities M.Phil., to post-doctoral research, the information that follows inevitably has to generalise in places. Use it as an introduction, and follow it up by using the various information resources to which it will point you, or bringing specific queries to the Careers and Employability Service.
Most of what is written here applies equally to contract research staff and postgraduates. Contract research staff are most welcome to use the Careers and Employability Service for information, advice and guidance. Begin your career planning early and don't wait until the last few weeks of your contract before taking action: many large employers will advertise their vacancies well in advance. Also there is a need to network and make contacts at this level as many jobs will come via such contacts.
The past decade has seen huge growth in postgraduate education in the UK, with an increase of over one-third in the number of students studying for higher degrees. In fact, the postgraduate sector grew faster than the undergraduate sector during that time.
- Almost 200,000 people complete a postgraduate-level qualification every year in the UK – one-third of the number completing a first degree;
- Around 17,500 of these have completed research degrees ….
- … and around 150,000 taught Masters degrees;
- The rest have completed postgraduate certificates and diploma such as PGCEs;
- Around half of postgraduates are studying part-time - often combining their studies with full-time or part-time work
- Half of international students studying in the UK are taking a postgraduate qualification
Statistics from the Higher Education Statistics Agency and the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills
“Postgraduate students” are a very diverse group, from taught Master’s students, to a Humanities Ph.Ds, to post-doctoral scientific researchers, to MBAs. Because of this, these pages inevitably have to generalise in places. Use them as an introduction, and follow up by using the various information resources to which they will point you, or bringing your individual questions to the Careers and Employability Service.
Most of what is written here applies equally to contract research staff and postgraduates and both groups are equally welcome to use the Careers and Employability Service for information, advice and guidance.
Begin your career planning early and don't wait until the day you submit your thesis, or the last few weeks of your contract before taking action: many large employers will advertise their vacancies well in advance. Also, many jobs at this level will come via networking and making contacts so this is something you should begin to do early.
There is further information in our Career Planning Guide for Postgraduates and Contract Researchers: you can pick up a copy from the CES building or download it here.
The vast majority of postgraduates enter employment at the end of their studies.
Although postgraduate numbers have increased so significantly, their job prospects have not diminished as a result. Both doctoral and Master’s degree graduates have a lower level of unemployment than Bachelor’s degree graduates and are more likely to be employed in a professional role. A smaller number continue studying, for further academic or professional qualifications.
The work which postgraduates enter will depend not only upon the type of degree and the subject studied but also upon the individual graduate - their interests, abilities, personal circumstances and reasons for undertaking postgraduate study. Still more important are the personal skills and experience which you have to offer. Even students entering academic careers will need to be able to show good communication and organisational skills in addition to their subject expertise.
Source: HESA DLHE Surveys
Destinations of University of Kent postgraduates 2008 — 2011
Types of jobs entered by postgraduates
Destinations of selected Kent PhD and Research Masters Students in 2013
PhD Computer Science - University of Kent - Classroom Supervisor - Computer Sci.
Destinations of selected Kent PhD Students in 2012
|Statistics PhD||Employed FT||Post-doc Fellow in Statistics||Department of Hygiene & Epedimiology, University of Ioannina|
|Statistics PhD||Employed FT||Postdoc. Research Associate||Bristol University|
|Statistics PhD||Employed FT||Trainee in Statistics||European Central Bank|
|Biochemistry MSc-R||Employed FT||Senior Scientist||Pfizer|
|Biochemistry MSc-R||Employed FT||Research Assistant||20000|
|Biochemistry PhD||Employed FT||Postdoc Research Associate||University of Kent|
|Biochemistry PhD||Employed FT||Research Scientist||National Institute of Health|
|Biochemistry PhD||Employed FT||Project Investigator||University Pompeu Fabra|
|Biochemistry PhD||Employed FT||Postdoc. Research Associate||University of Kent|
|Biochemistry PhD||Employed FT||Postdoc Research Associate||Imperial College|
|Biochemistry PhD||Employed FT||Postdoc Scientist||National Institute for Medical Research|
|Biochemistry PhD||Employed FT||Senior Scientist||Lonza|
|Biochemistry PhD||Employed FT||Competitive Intelligence Research Analyst||Prescient Life Sciences|
|Biochemistry PhD||Employed FT||Research Associate||University of Kent|
|Biochemistry PhD||Employed FT||Research Technician||University of Kent|
|Genetics MSc-R||Employed FT||Trainee Embryologist||CARE Fertility|
|Genetics PhD||Employed FT||Postdoc Researcher||University of Kent|
|Microbiology MSc-R||Employed FT||Teacher||Sittingbourne College|
|Microbiology MSc-R||Employed FT||R&D scientists||SCIPAC|
|Microbiology PhD||Employed FT||Research Associate||UCL|
|Microbiology PhD||Employed FT||IT Project assistant||PROSIS|
|Chemistry MSc-R||Further Study||PhD in Chemsitry||University of Warwick|
|Chemistry PhD||Employed FT||Research Associate||Wake Forest University|
|Chemistry PhD||Employed FT||Postdoc. Fellow||Eindhoven University of Technology|
|Chemistry PhD||Employed FT||Chaplain||University of Kent|
|Environmental Econ PhD||Employed FT||Statistical Analyst/Actuarial Course||Ingenie|
|Industrial Relations PhD||Employed FT||Lecturer in HR Management||Roehampton University|
|Management MA-R||Employed FT||Business Analyse||G-ABLE|
|Management MA-R||Employed PT||Mediator, & project manager||S A WALSH..LTD|
|Management PhD||Employed FT||Director of Research||NOI Polls Limited|
|Management PhD||Employed FT||Post Doc Researcher||INRA (French National Institute for Agricultural Research)|
|Management PhD||Employed FT||University Lecturer||University of Kent|
|Management PhD||Employed FT||Offshore Drilling Agent||Not given|
|Economics PhD||Employed FT||Executive Director||Organisation for Rehabilitation & Devt|
|Law PhD||Employed FT||Researcher||National Police Agency|
|Law PhD||Employed FT||Assistant Lecturer||University of Kent|
|Law PhD||Employed FT||Lecturer||University of Leicester|
|Law PhD||Employed FT||Lecturer in Law||Birkbeck College, University of London|
|Law PhD||Employed FT||Lecturer in Law||university of london|
|Law PhD||Employed FT||Senior Lecturer||University of Kent|
|Law PhD||Employed PT||Assistant Lecturer||University of Kent|
|Law PhD||Employed FT||Director||Critical Rights & Gender Consult SPRL|
|Law LLM-R||Employed FT||Business Planning Analyst||Danone|
|Int'l Conflict Analysis PhD||Employed FT||University Lecturer||University of British Columbia|
|Int'l Conflict Analysis PhD||Employed FT||Researcher||Nuclear Test Ban Treaty Organisation|
|International Relations PhD||Employed FT||Senior Political Scientist||RAND Corporation|
|International Relations PhD||Employed FT||University Lecturer||Kingston University|
|International Relations PhD||Employed FT||Forwarding Executive||Kingbrook Ltd|
|Psychology (SCI) PhD||Employed FT||Postdoc. Research Associate||University of Kent|
|Social Psychology PhD||Employed FT||Postdoc. Researcher||Oxford University|
|Social Psychology PhD||Employed FT||Postdoctorate Researcher||IAP Institut fur Angewandte Psychologie|
|Clinical Psychol. PhD||Employed FT||Clinical Psychologist||Sinclair Strong Consultants|
|Community Care PhD||Employed PT||Research Assistant||University of Kent|
|Learning Disability PhD||Employed FT||Teacher||Education Department|
|Mental Health MPH-R||Employed FT||Founder & Chief Executive||UK Resettlement|
|Sociology PhD||Employed FT||Researcher||Harvard University|
|Sociology PhD||Employed PT||Research Associate||University of Kent|
|Sociology PhD||Employed FT||Research Assistant||University of BahÃ§esehir|
|Social Policy PhD||Employed FT||Lecturer||City University|
|Anthropology PhD||Employed FT||Teaching Fellow||University of Southampton|
|Anthropology PhD||Employed FT||Regional Programmes Director||Global Diversity Foundation|
|Anthropology PhD||Employed FT||Communications & Editing||Forest People's Program|
|Anthropology PhD||Employed FT||Pronunciation Linguist||BBC|
|Biodiversity Mgt PhD||Employed FT||Research Field Director||Gunung Palung Orangutan Project|
|Biodiversity Management PhD||Employed FT||Projects director for Neotropical Primate Conservation- Peru||Charity, Neotropical Primate Conservation|
|Medical Health PhD||Employed FT||Consulatant Psychiatrist||SW Yorkshire Partnership NHS|
|Drama PhD||Employed FT||Lecturer||W. Australian Academy of Performing Arts|
|History & Philosophy of Art MPh-R||Employed FT||Membership Database Coordinator||Nasher Sculpture Center|
|History of Art PhD||Employed FT||Curator||The Canterbury Tales|
|English PhD||Employed FT||Assistant Lecturer||University of Kent|
|English PhD||Employed FT||Assistant Teacher & Ref Administrator||University of Kent|
|English PhD||Employed PT||Lecturer in English||MidKent College|
|Text Practice PhD||Employed FT||Chief Program Officer||Champions for Kids|
|Hispanic Studies PhD||Employed FT||Teaching Fellow||University of Kent|
|French MA-R||Employed FT||Assistant to President/PhD in Education Studies||European University Institute|
|Theol & Religious St. PhD||Employed FT||Lecturer in Religious Studies||University of Kent|
|Philosophy PhD||Employed PT||Assistant Philosophy Lecturer||University of Kent|
|Theol & Religious St. MPH-R||Employed FT||Astrologer||Self-employed|
|History PhD||Employed FT||Senior Researcher||Salix Consulting|
|Computer Sci. PhD||Employed FT||Team Leader||Detica|
|Computer Science PhD||Employed FT||Lecturer||Federal University of Rio Grande do Norte|
|Computer Science PhD||Employed FT||Lecturer/Researcher||Federal University of Technology of Parana (UTFPR)|
|Computer Sci. PhD||Employed FT||Research Assistant||University of Kent|
|Electronics MSc-R||Employed FT||Software/System developer||NavGame & Biometric Solutions Ltd|
|Electronics PhD||Employed FT||Post doctoral research associate||Ecole Centrale de Lille|
|Electronics PhD||Employed FT||University Researcher||University of Kent|
|Electronics PhD||Employed FT||Consulting Partner||Biosec|
|Electronics PhD||Employed FT||Research Associate||University of Kent|
|Electronics PhD||Employed FT||Research Associate||University of Kent|
|Electronics PhD||Employed FT||Researcher||University of Kent|
2005 - 2011 University of Kent PhD Destinations
|PhD Accounting & Finance||University of Kent||Reader In Accounting|
|PhD Biochemistry||University of Kent||Postdoc. Research|
|PhD Biochemistry||University of Kent||Postdoc. Research Associate|
|PhD Biochemistry||University of Kent||Research Associate|
|PhD Biochemistry||Rochester Independent College||Trainee Teacher|
|PhD Biochemistry||University of Bristol||Postdoc. Research Ass't|
|PhD Biochemistry||University of Kent||Research Associate/(Training for Teaching)|
|PhD Biochemistry||Bridge Genoma||Molecular Cytogeneticist|
|PhD Biochemistry||University of Kent||Post Doc Research Assoc./PCRT-T HIGHEDA|
|PhD Biochemistry||St.Jude Childrens Research Hospital||Postdoc. Research Associate|
|PhD Biodiversity Management||Herpetological Conservation Trust||Research & Monitoring Officer|
|PhD Biodiversity Management||University of Edinburgh||Post Doctoral Researcher|
|PhD Biodiversity Management||University of Sussex||Research Assistant|
|PhD Cartoons & Caricature||University of Kent||Associate Lecturer|
|PhD Clinical Psychology||University of East Anglia||Clinical Senior Lecturer|
|PhD Computer Science||Kasikom Bank||IT Developer|
|PhD Computer Science||Universidad Carlos III||Visiting Lecturer|
|PhD Computer Science||Nokia UK Ltd||Software Engineer|
|PhD Drama||Rose Bruford Colege||Programme Director|
|PhD Drama||Southampton Solent University||Lecturer|
|PhD Drama||Bristol University||Lecturer|
|PhD Economics||Observatoire Francais Economiques||Researcher|
|PhD Economics||University of Gothenburg||Postdoc/Lecturer|
|PhD Electronic Eng.||University of Lefke||Senior Lecturer|
|PhD Electronic Eng.||Brigham Young University||Associate Professor|
|PhD Electronic Engineering||University of Kent||Research Assoc.|
|PhD Electronic Engineering||Japan Society for the promotion of Sci.||Post Doctoral Research Fellow|
|PhD English||Brook Farm/Designed Visions/WEA||Farm Secretary/Permaculture Design Cert.|
|PhD English||Kuehne & Nagel||Office Administrator|
|PhD Film Studies||University of East Anglia||Lecturer/PGHE|
|PhD French||University of Kent||Associate Lecturer in French|
|PhD Health Psychology||Local Research Network||Senior Research Nurse|
|PhD History||Leeds Castle||Part-time Castle Guide|
|PhD History||University of Kent||Part-time Sessional Teacher|
|PhD History||Civil Servant|
|PhD International Relations||ESSEC IRENE||Director|
|PhD International Relations||U.S. Army||Chief Office of Defence Co-operation|
|PhD Italian||University of Kent||Part-time Lecturer/PGCE HE|
|PhD Law||University of Keele||Lecturer|
|PhD Law||University of Kent||Teaching Assistant|
|PhD Medieval Studies.||University of Kent||Lecturer|
|PhD Philosophy||Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique||Postdoc. Researcher|
|PhD Physics||Christ Church Academy||Science Teacher|
|PhD Physics||Ancon Technologies||Aerosol Physicist|
|PhD Physics||Geological Society||Web Site Administrator|
|PhD Physics||DSTL||Defence Scientist|
|PhD Physics||Defence Sci. & Research Lab.||MOD Civil Servant|
|PhD Physics||University of Kent||Schools Liaison Adviser|
|PhD Politics & Gov't||Democretean University of Thrake||Lecturer|
|PhD Postcolonial Studies||University of Kent||Lecturer|
|PhD Postcolonial Studies||University of Kent||Teaching Associate|
|PhD Psychology||Royal Holloway University||Post-doc Research Associate|
|PhD Psychology||University of Kent||Lecturer in Psychology|
|PhD Psychology||University of Staffordshire||Lecturer|
|PhD Pure Mathematics||University of Kent||Part-time Marker of Undergrad Maths Exams|
|PhD Social Policy||University of Southampton||Lecturer|
|PhD Social Policy||Kent County Council||Policy & Strategy Officer|
|PhD Social Policy||UCD||Head of School of Social Justice|
|PhD Social Psychology||South Bank University||Lecturer|
|PhD Social Psychology||University of Kent||Research Assoc.|
|PhD Spanish||Accent Business Communication||Director Self Employed|
|PhD Statistics||University of Kent||Research Associate|
|PhD Statistics||Cambridge University||Postdoc. Research Ass't|
|PhD Statistics||Postdoc. Research Ass't|
|PhD Theology & Religious St.||Educational Association||Part-time Lecturer|
More detailed information on the destinations of University of Kent postgraduates may be found at our "What can I do with my Degree in .." web pages www.kent.ac.uk/careers/degreein.htm and our destinations pages
|"You'll need the ability to adapt to new challenges, analyse complex problems and generate original ideas. You'll need the intellectual courage to question convention and explore more effective ways of doing things. You will also need excellent team skills, the ability to understand customer needs and a willingness to continue learning throughout your career".
GSK (pharmaceutical company)
Opportunities with a postgraduate degree
An academic position is the main career goal for many research students, and higher education will often offer the best opportunities to use your postgraduate studies directly, especially in the humanities.
However, this is not an easy option: the job market for lecturers and contract researchers is getting tougher and it is increasingly rare for postgraduates to obtain a position as a lecturer immediately after completing their PhD. More typically they will start out as a:
Teaching Assistant/Research Assistant/Postdoctoral Fellow. These will generally be temporary contracts lasting one, two or three years and may lead on to a permanent academic post, although there is no guarantee of this. Teaching posts in particular are likely to be part-time and remunerated only on the number of hours taught.
Universities will look at more than just the quality of your research: candidates for academic posts should be able to offer all of the following:
- Publications. You should be able to demonstrate that you have begun to disseminate your work to the wider academic community through published journal articles or books and/or presenting papers at conferences.
- Teaching experience. Teaching at undergraduate level is also an essential part of an academic career and you should take advantage of any opportunities to gain teaching experience during your postgraduate studies. Departments frequently require, or strongly encourage, their research students to do this but, if your own department does not offer any teaching opportunities, you may be able to obtain part-time teaching in further and adult education.
- Administrative skills. Academic staff also have a number of administrative responsibilities (such as convening courses, managing exams, sitting on committees, quality assessment, etc) so any experience of people or project management would be helpful here.
The academic job market is highly international with lecturers and postdoctoral researchers moving between countries to find employment and develop their career.
As well as “traditional” academic-related roles, such as library, IT and careers guidance services, universities are increasingly reducing the administrative role of academic staff, and freeing them up to concentrate on their research and teaching, by employing staff in a variety of management and support roles. These roles include:
- Administration, including student registration and admissions, central services administration, departmental co-ordination;
- Library and information services;
- Scientific support, e.g. laboratory technicians;
- Careers, employability and enterprise;
- Human resource management, including staff development/training;
- IT and systems support;
- Public relations and marketing posts, promoting universities to prospective students (in the UK and overseas), alumni, businesses and the community;
- Student welfare and support: counselling and advice services, disability support, international student support;
- Accommodation, catering and conference services;
- Arts, music and events;
- Financial management;
- Health & safety.
For more information on these options, see www.kent.ac.uk/careers/workin/university.htm
Teaching in Schools and Colleges
A number of postgraduates will go on to train as teachers, either through a PGCE course or while working in a school. Funding to cover fees and maintenance may be available for PGCEs, depending on the subject. A PhD may be looked on favourably in private schools and further education colleges. A teaching qualification is not an essential requirement to teach in Further Education Colleges or independent schools, although it would be advantageous. If you intend to teach in schools, you should have some work experience with the relevant age-range.
See http://www.kent.ac.uk/careers/siteach.htm for more information on teaching careers.
OTHER AREAS: RELATED TO YOUR SUBJECT
Outside education, jobs which make direct use of a degree in the humanities are unlikely to be more numerous at postgraduate level than they were after your BA. Areas such as the media, publishing and the heritage sector are highly competitive and, although your degree should be able to help you demonstrate an advanced level of skills and knowledge, employers will usually be seeking practical and transferable skills rather than purely academic expertise.
You may be particularly interested in the field of social research: working for central or local government bodies, think-tanks and consultancies. Commercial organisations, such as market research and advertising agencies, also make use of social research techniques and skills. Subjects such as law, business and economics can also be applied with commercial employers specialising in these fields.
Research & development scientists are employed in many organisations including manufacturing companies (cosmetics, pharmaceuticals, defence, etc), energy and utility companies, Government laboratories, charities and Research Councils. These employers may look for very specific research skills which closely match their own research areas.
Increasingly, though, employers of researchers in science are looking for more than academic research skills. They are looking at recruiting researchers who have the potential to develop into project leaders, department managers and ultimately heads of research. This may involve moving out of research into more commercial roles. You will therefore need to show more general personal and employability skills as well as specialised research skills.
For more information see www.kent.ac.uk/careers/workin/researchsci.htm
A postgraduate degree doesn't in itself entitle you to practise law - it will still be necessary to complete professional exams and practical training before qualification. Legal employers may value your postgraduate degree if it is in an area related to their field of practice - International Commercial Law, for example, may be of interest to a City solicitors firm. For more information on legal careers and qualifications see www.kent.ac.uk/careers/siteslaw.htm
Business and Management
Graduates who have obtained a Masters in Management, or similar, immediately after a first degree will generally enter organisations at "graduate" level. Although employers, particularly large corporations, value the skills and business knowledge gained through a Master’s degree, they do not normally have a separate entry level for Master’s graduates without professional work experience.
MBA graduates should see our web pages “What can I do with my MBA?” for a detailed overview of opportunities and resources.
A postgraduate degree in Economics will greatly enhance your chances of getting into a directly-related field of work such as economic consultancy, the Government Economic Service, economic development work in local government and economic research, analysis and forecasting in business and finance. For more information see www.kent.ac.uk/careers/economics.htm
Many postgraduates in IR hope to develop a career working with an international governmental or non-governmental organisation. Getting into such organisations takes time and it's normally essential to obtain experience before gaining a permanent post - through an internship or by work in other organisations. For more information see www.kent.ac.uk/careers/IntRelations.htm
“Five or ten years ago about 15-20% of our graduate trainees had PhDs; now more than half have postgraduate or research experience. They tend to be more mature than younger trainees and to have more polished communication skills . Having worked as researchers themselves, they also have a keen awareness of what research is like – an important asset when dealing with our clients.”
Head of graduate recruitment at Mewburn Ellis patent attorneys
OTHER AREAS: OUTSIDE YOUR SUBJECT
You may not wish, or may not be able, to use your postgraduate study or research in your career either directly or indirectly. A change in career direction is certainly possible at this stage, whether through entering employment immediately or after further study or training. Below are just a few examples of “alternative” careers entered by past Kent graduates:
Destinations of some of the University of Kent Ph.D graduates (2005 – 2011)
Schools Liaison Adviser
Policy & Strategy Officer
Research & Monitoring Officer
Web Site Administrator
Chief Office of Defence
“Even though I am not using the knowledge I gained from my MA directly, it enabled me to demonstrate that I have the commitment and intelligence to see a long, difficult and challenging task through to completion”
Employability Skills Obtained through Postgraduate Study
Employers want postgraduates to be able to offer more than their academic subject knowledge. They also look for a range of skills: transferable skills such as teamworking, business awareness and communication skills plus, depending on the employer, more practical skills such as languages, numeracy, laboratory techniques and quantitative methods. These skills need to be put forward on job applications – even those for academic posts.
The employability skills derived from postgraduate study include the following:
- Academic achievement: demonstrates application and high standards of performance;
- Written communication skills: the ability to use the English language effectively in order to put across your arguments fluently in writing and to express your ideas clearly and at a level appropriate for your audience;
- Verbal Communication skills: listening, speaking confidently and clearly and pitching what you say in such a way to have the desired impact on your listeners;
- Analysis: Considering differing ideas, information and theories; picking out key points and details in order to construct or support your arguments; distinguishing relevant from irrelevant information, identifying issues and problems; following complex reasoning; applying logic;
- Critical thinking: the ability to question and not to take things at face value. Interpreting information and arguments; considering their validity in the light of issues such as their source, the evidence provided to support them and other material on the topic; arguing a case with logic and constructing a reasoned argument for your own point of view.
- Research/Investigative skills: use of a variety of sources; constructing research proposals; testing different theories; using specialist techniques such as statistical packages or laboratory equipment;
- Planning and organising: approaching tasks and projects systematically; managing your own time and work; setting targets; monitoring progress; delegating; ability to handle a number of different tasks simultaneously.
- Problem solving: taking a systematic approach to problems; being flexible in finding solutions; looking at different angles and approaches; identifying the most appropriate solution for the situation;
- Innovation: ability to take a fresh approach, think laterally, being capable of original and creative thought; develop new concepts and ideas; willing to try new things and adapt to new environments;
- Capacity for hard work: embodying self-motivation, self-discipline and commitment;
- Co-operation: the ability to work with other people, inside and outside your own department or organisation. Working together to achieve a common goal. Allocating and sharing responsibilities and tasks; supporting and motivating other people;
- Practicality: realism, ability to set attainable goals;
- Maturity: wide experience of life generally and specifically of working with other people; strong career focus; credibility with employers and clients.
- Self-motivation: ability to work independently without the need for constant direction or feedback. Anticipating what needs to be done; setting your own goals and working towards them. Being positive and professional. Taking responsibility for your own work and personal development.
- Commercial awareness: awareness of the environment in which an organisation operates (public sector and charitable organisations face commercial and financial pressures too!). A focus on the purpose of the organisation and its clients and/or stakeholders.
- Decisiveness: fact-finding skills, clarity, judgement, courage;
- Computing skills: knowledge of statistical packages, spreadsheets, databases and programming languages.
Many of these skills are developed to a high level through postgraduate study and research. Others can be demonstrated through other aspects of your experience, such as part-time or vacation work and extra-curricular interests, so make sure to get involved in activities outside of your studies and to use these activities in your applications.
In a study by Vitae employers ranked the strongest skills of doctoral graduates in the following order
- Data analysis
- Problem Solving
- Drive and Motivation
- Project Management
- Interpersonal Skills
- Commercial Awareness
Analysing your skills
The Careers Employability Award can help you to analyse the skills you have developed through your studies and to communicate them to employers. The award consists of quizzes and assignments: it is all done online and takes just a few hours to complete.
The sites listed below also provide resources to help you identify the skills you have developed through your studies and those you wish to develop further:
- Vitae www.vitae.ac.uk/skillsaudit includes a self-evaluation exercise;
- Our Employability Skills pages www.kent.ac.uk/careers/sk/skillsmenu.htm include a skills inventory and a progress file;
- Prospects Planner www.prospects.ac.uk/links/Pplanner - an online self- assessment and career choice program that also helps you to relate your skills to jobs
Once you have worked through one or two of these resources you may wish to talk over the results with a careers adviser
Choosing a Career
Important things to keep in mind when making career decisions:
- Get to know yourself - your employability skills, abilities and personal qualities. Without knowing what your skills and values are, what is important to you and what you want from a job, it will be more difficult to make career choices;
- Other people can often help you to see yourself more clearly. Try asking your friends, relations or tutors about your strengths and weaknesses, or talk over your ideas with a careers adviser. They could help you to see yourself more objectively;
- Don't have fixed ideas about jobs, such as who does them and what the work is like. Stereotyped pictures of jobs are rarely accurate. Find out what is really involved and look for the truth behind the popular image;
- The best careers advice comes from people with first-hand knowledge. Try and make contact with people doing the type of jobs that interest you and talk to them about their work. Use “creative career search” techniques to network and make contacts;
- Keep an open mind. Be flexible. Be receptive to new job ideas. Don't reject career possibilities without some consideration first. Remember that your first career post does not have to set the direction for the rest of your working life if you don’t want it to;
- Make full use of the Careers & Employability Service. Use our print and online resources and consult Careers Advisers with any queries and problems.
Sources of help and information on making career decisions:
- Choosing a Career Careers Service booklet and web pages www.kent.ac.uk/careers/Choosing/ChoosingCareer.htm
- Prospects Planner www.prospects.ac.uk/links/Pplanner This is an online self-assessment and career choice program that helps you to:
- generate new job ideas and check out your existing ideas;
- identify your skills and find out what motivates you in a job;
- see how these match the jobs you are considering;
- research your chosen jobs in more detail and decide on the right choices for you
- Your PhD - What Next? www.prospects.ac.uk/links/YourPhD
- Your Masters - What Next? www.prospects.ac.uk/links/YourMasters
Find out about the skills you have gained as a result of your postgraduate study and how you can present these skills most effectively to an employer.
- Options with your subject - a series covering over 40 academic subject areas giving ideas for how graduates can use their degree subject or the employability skills acquired in studying it. The series is targeted at undergraduates but much of the content is also relevant to postgraduates. Available on the Prospects website www.prospects.ac.uk/links/Options
- What can I do with my degree in ..?" www.kent.ac.uk/careers/degreein.htm Information on the destinations of Kent graduates and postgraduates plus links to employers and career areas likely to be of interest to graduates in that subject.
Applications and interviews for academic jobs
When applying for research posts or lectureships, make sure you have a good understanding of the department, the position and your own area of research. All this may seem self-evident, but candidates for academic posts are often too focused on their own specific research and don’t think about what the job actually involves or what they can contribute to the department through their skills or experience. So, before you start to apply, put your research skills into practice to find out all that you can about the department, its staff and students (any contacts that you have built up through networking will be invaluable here). This will help you to focus your application and to demonstrate clearly what you can offer them that distinguishes you from the other candidates.
Academic CVs follow a different format from a “normal” CV, most notably in the content and the length. They are generally longer than the “standard” two-side CV, often running to five or six pages, as they need to include information such as:
- A detailed synopsis of your PhD and any other research;
- Publications – books, articles, reviews, conference proceedings, etc;
- Conferences attended (especially if you have presented papers);
- Membership of relevant professional bodies;
- Teaching experience - running seminars, helping with practicals etc;
- Awards – such as funded studentships, academic prizes or travel grants;
- Details of relevant scientific or specialist packages/techniques you are familiar with such as SPSS, LexisNexis, NMR or chromatography;
- Evidence of skills such as IT, time management, project management and report writing;
- Work experience – only list experience relevant to your application, such as teaching, “university ambassador” roles, exam invigilation, industrial placements, internships etc;
- References. Usually three academic references (one or more from your postgraduate degree plus one from your first degree) and possibly one from an employer or another individual who can comment about your personal qualities as opposed to your academic performance.
Covering Letters and Personal Statements
In your covering letter or personal statement, you should outline your skills and strengths, show real enthusiasm for your subject, evidence of a wider knowledge of the area beyond your specialised field of research and awareness of recent developments.
“The biggest problem is lack of clarity. People either provide too much detail or omit crucial points. A CV should provide a clear account of where you are, what you have achieved, what you are doing now and where you are moving next in your research”
Susan Bassnett, Professor of Comparative Literature, Warwick University
For examples of academic and postgraduate CVs, see http://www.kent.ac.uk/careers/cv/PostgradCV.htm
Interviews for Academic Jobs
PhDs are usually awarded at a viva but PhD students at a college in Srinagar, Kashmir, were until recently also expected to lay on kebabs before faculty members decided their fate, according to the Kashmir Reader newspaper. "Almost all departments ask an MPhil or PhD scholar to arrange 'refreshments' for the adjudicating panel," campus sources told the paper: students may to pay up to 10,000 rupees (£100) for the food. The rule has now been discontinued.
At one time, interviews for academic, contract research or postdoctoral posts were less formal than interviews with other types of employers. This has now changed – there is fierce competition for these posts and you need to prepare well, show enthusiasm and ask appropriate questions.
An academic interview is likely to be carried out by a panel made up of a number of members of staff, from both the academic department and the human resources department. Remember that, unlike HR staff, academics may not be trained interviewers, so be aware that you may occasionally have to take the initiative.
Interviews for academic posts frequently require candidates to give a short presentation - usually on an aspect of your research. This allows the panel to assess not only your teaching skills but also your ability to plan, research, analyse and present information. You can also expect to be asked questions, and how you respond to these will also form part of the assessment. Presentations need to be pitched at the right level – at a well-informed and knowledgeable audience who may nonetheless not be familiar with the detailed nuances of your specialised area of research. Alternatively, you may be asked to prepare a presentation of the sort that would be delivered in an undergraduate lecture.
There may also be a social side to the interview, such as a lunch to which all members of the department will be invited. While this will not be assessed, remember that people who are not on the actual interview panel may also be asked for their opinions of the candidates, so don’t get involved in any heated debates or inappropriate topics of conversation.
Before the interview:
- Research the university and the department carefully;
- Check out the research interests of the current academic staff;
- Try to speak to current students in the department and look at notice boards, social networking sites, etc.
- Read over your application again. Try and put yourself in the interviewers’ shoes and think of questions they may want to ask you;
- In addition, think of questions you want to ask.
You can expect to be asked about:
- Your research: research already carried out, work in progress, your future direction;
- Studentships, research grants and other funding achieved;
- Teaching experience – what you have taught; to whom; teaching and assessment techniques;
- Any relevant specialist technical expertise;
- Any other ways in which you have contributed to University life, such as administration experience, involvement in open days and student recruitment.
The interviewers will also want to find out about you as an individual - will you fit in to the department? Are you a good team member?
Remember that they will be looking at your ability to think for yourself; your capacity for independent and original thought and your ability to communicate and reason. Be polite, but don't be afraid to enter into discussion and to stand your ground. Some interviewers will deliberately challenge your replies to see if you can stand up for yourself and argue your point effectively.
They will also be looking for evidence of strong interest in your subject, as well as enthusiasm for the subject. Do you keep up to date with developments? Do you genuinely seem to enjoy talking about the subject?
Make sure that you ask questions of the panel, as this demonstrates your enthusiasm and interest.
Some questions that might be asked at an academic job interview
- How did you choose your research topic?
- Why do you feel that this research is important?
- What have you got out of your postgraduate study?
- How would your research interests fit in with the work of this department?
- What teaching experience do you have?
- How would you approach teaching first-years on our ….. module?
- What other relevant skills or experience can you offer?
- Have you considered any further potential areas of research?
- How would you go about persuading a funding body to support your research?
- What makes you the right candidate for this post?
- Where do you see yourself in five years time?
Many of these questions demand a fairly detailed response but make sure that you don’t go into too much detail! Watch the panel for signs of impatience and be prepared to pause occasionally, giving them the chance either to encourage you to continue or to move on to another question.
Some questions you could ask at an academic interview
- What do you feel are the key strengths of this department?
- What are your most successful courses in terms of student numbers?
- Do you have any plans to introduce new courses or modules?
- What training and support is available to new members of staff? Would I have the opportunity to take a PGCHE? What staff development opportunities are available?
- How and when will I be appraised?
Dress codeSmart casual dress may be acceptable for academic interviews, particularly those for research posts rather than lectureships, but many departments now expect more formal business dress. If in doubt, go for the smarter option - you will never prejudice your chances by being too smart, but dressing in too casual a way risks being interpreted as unprofessional or not sufficiently motivated.
For advice on academic interviews, including presentations and commonly-asked questions, see:
- Vitae www.vitae.ac.uk/researchers/1660/Academic%20job%20interviews.html
- Jobs.ac.uk www.jobs.ac.uk/careers-advice/interview-tips
Applications and interviews for other jobsWhile your postgraduate study or research will have equipped you with a large number of the skills that employers want for graduates, if you are applying for posts outside the academic or research field, you will need to convince employers of two things:
- that the skills you have gained can be useful in a non-academic setting;
- that you are motivated and enthusiastic about the position that you are applying for.
In other words, you not only need to convince prospective employers that you can do the job, but also that you want to do the job. This is particularly important for research postgraduates who may otherwise run the risk of being viewed by employers as “over-qualified” or as “frustrated academics”.
Your CV should therefore be more similar to an “undergraduate” CV, using your postgraduate study alongside work experience and other activities as evidence of the skills and personal qualities required in that particular position. In general, these CVs will be shorter than academic CVs – not more than two sides of A4 when printed out – and should include:
- A brief outline of your research or course;
- Work experience – here, any type of experience may be relevant: part-time and vacation work, voluntary work, work shadowing, etc;
- Extra-curricular activities and interests – these do not just help to demonstrate your skills but also show that you have a life outside your studies!
- Evidence of skills such as IT, time management, project management and report writing;
- References. Usually just two references, one academic and one employer or character reference.
This information may be set out in a traditional/chronological, skills-based or hybrid CV format: which you choose is up to you and depends on which format you feel is best suited to you and the job for which you are applying.
“My interviewer was more impressed by the fact that I had funded myself through my MA by working part-time at a restaurant while studying full-time than he was by the degree itself! It showed my commitment and my time management skills as well as the people skills which are essential for a career in human resource management”
Interviews for other positions
The format of these, and the questions asked, will naturally vary according to the employer and the type of job but in most cases will be different from academic interviews. You will usually be interviewed by one or two people rather than a panel and the questions are likely to focus as much on your skills and competencies as on your studies and research.
As with academic interviews, thorough preparation is the key to success. This will help you to appear confident at interview (however nervous you feel inside!) and provide evidence of your motivation and enthusiasm by showing that you have taken the trouble to research the career area and the employer to which you are applying.
- Think about why you want the job – what motivates you?
- What you have to offer that will help you to do the job – relevant experience, skills and/or competencies;
- Prepare examples that demonstrate these skills;
- Anticipate questions that you might be asked during the interview.
Demonstrating your motivation and competencies will be doubly important if you are applying for a position that has little or no direct relevance to your studies. While employers may find your academic qualifications impressive some, particularly in smaller organisations, may equally find them intimidating. They may also have concerns about the relevance of these qualifications, your practical and people skills and your commitment to a career outside academia.
- You can expect to be asked questions such as:
- Why did you choose to take a postgraduate degree?
- What did your course/research actually involve?
- How might your degree be useful to us?
- What do you know about this organisation?
- Why are you applying for this job?
- What do you expect to be doing in this job?
- Apart from your degree, what can you bring to the job?
- What other jobs have you applied for?
- Where do you see yourself in five years time?
- You have a Masters degree - have you thought about carrying on into a PhD?
- You have a PhD – don’t you want to be a university lecturer?
These questions are designed to assess your motivation – do you want the job? Other questions will aim to assess your competencies – can you do the job?
Competency-based questions will follow the format “Give me an example of a time when you have … ”:
- had to convince a person or group to do something that they were initially reluctant to do?
- had to analyse detailed information to extract the essential points?
- had to manage a heavy workload or a number of conflicting priorities?
- had to organise your time to achieve a specific aim?
- worked with a group of other people to achieve a common goal?
- taken a major decision?
- succeeded in a challenging task in difficult circumstances?
- solved a problem in a creative way?
- acted to improve a process or make a system work better?
- had to explain something in detail to a person or group who knew little about the subject?
- begun a task and then had to change your approach and do something in a different way?
Your studies will have given you material to use in answering many of these questions, but it is a good idea to provide a number of examples from outside academia as well - this will reassure the interviewer that you have experience beyond university and have gained skills from “real life” as well as from study and research.
For more advice on competency-based interviews, and further example questions, see www.kent.ac.uk/careers/compet/skillquest.htm
- www.jobs.ac.uk the main source for university jobs in the UK
- FindAUniversityJob www.findauniversityjob.com
- FindAPostDoc www.FindAPostDoc.com
- The Guardian http://jobs.guardian.co.uk/jobs/education/higher
- Times Higher Education www.timeshighereducation.co.uk
- Eduserve www.vacancies.ac.uk
- Academic Jobs EU www.academicjobseu.com
- All Acad.com All-Acad.com offers jobs for academics globally. There are currently more than 20,000 jobs online. Also has specific sites:
- Computeroxy http://computeroxy.com/about-computeroxy,d1.html academic website exclusively dedicated to academic careers in schools of electrical and electronic engineering and computer science in Europe, America, Asia, Oceania and the Middle East
- INOMICS https://inomics.com/top/jobs is a platform to announce job openings for economists and also academics & professionals in other disciplines, to search for them, and to get an email notification whenever a new opening meeting your interests arrives. INOMICS covers openings in all subject and geographical areas at all levels, and the site also includes a directory of discipline-related organisations, including consultancies, with links to their websites.
Most of these sites list jobs covering a range of academic, research, managerial and support roles in higher education plus vacancies in other public and private sector bodies that are appropriate for postgraduates and researchers.
There may also be specialist listings for particular subjects, such as Inomics (www.inomics.com) for Economics or the American Philological Association (http://apaclassics.org) for Classics – your supervisor will know which are the best sources for your subject area.
General graduate jobs:
- Prospects www.prospects.ac.uk/links/jobs.htm
- TARGET Jobs http://targetjobs.co.uk
- Milkround Online www.milkround.co.uk
These are national resources which chiefly focus on large corporate and public sector recruiters. If you are interested in working locally (where there are few such recruiters), working in media or the arts, or working for a smaller employer, the following may help you:
- “I Want to Work In …” www.kent.ac.uk/careers/workin.htm- brief introductions to almost 100 popular career areas, with useful links
- Working in Kent www.kent.ac.uk/careers/kentopps.htm
- Working in Small Businesses www.kent.ac.uk/careers/sme.htm
- The Creative Career Search www.kent.ac.uk/careers/sk/CJ.htm
- The Careers & Employability Service’s vacancy database http://kent.prospects.ac.uk includes jobs with all kinds of employers (in Kent, nationally and internationally) plus postgraduate studentships and research posts.
“Standing in front of an audience of academics to explain my MA dissertation, searching archives in order to find original sources and taking part in serious class discussions not only helped to develop my historical knowledge, but also my ability to speak in public, evaluate information and argue my point of view”
Links and resources
- Vitae - a national organisation supporting the personal, professional and career development of doctoral researchers and research staff in higher education institutions and research institutes. The site includes a great deal of useful information for postgraduates;
- New PhD Portal on jobs.ac.uk
www.jobs.ac.uk/phd From PhD programmes and studentships to professional doctorates, jobs.ac.uk has launched a dedicated new PhD portal for postgraduates where you can search for your ideal PhD. Last year we advertised over 5,500 PhD opportunities for universities and research institutions throughout the UK, Europe and beyond. This year we have introduced new filters to make finding PhDs on jobs.ac.uk even easier including:
- Qualification type
- Discipline and sub-category
- Funding amount and eligibility
- Beyond the PhD Arts and humanities PhDs describe their experience, their current work in a range of academic and non-academic careers and how their Has equipped them for their role;
- Social Science Space A resource for social scientists with pages of advice for those at the start of their career.
- Science and Technology Facilities Council - survey of the career paths of PhD graduates in physics and related subjects;
- Postgraduate Careers Blog from the University of Manchester. Careers news, comments, vacancies and deadline alerts for postgraduates;
- Research Careers: advice and resources from Research Councils UK, including case studies on careers in research;
- Research Fundermentals by Phil Ward, research funding manager at the the University of Kent. Excellent information on research funding.
- Career Resources for Researchers from the University of East Anglia. Includes links to professional and funding bodies in a wide range of fields; vacancy sources and recruitment agencies relevant to research students.;
- Choosing a PhD http://targetpostgrad.com/content/find-a-phd academic jobs, jobs outside academia, research and professional training.
- Research is Cool: recruitment & social networking site for researchers at all stages of their career including vacancies for research assistant jobs, postdoctoral positions, postgraduate studentships and careers advice;
- Shinton Consulting: provides careers advice, information and professional development training to scientists, academic researchers, research students and academic staff. Their website carries advice, profiles, case studies, information about careers in academia and beyond, plus links;
- Researchers in Schools www.researchersinschools.org is a salaried teacher training programme exclusively for researchers with a doctoral qualification. Participants will receive a minimum training scholarship of £17,000 in the first year and a competitive salary thereafter.
- LinkedIn group for PhDs seeking career opportunities outside of academia
- Reflecting on the value of your PhD: what are employers looking for?
- Guardian Higher Education Network: news, advice and issues relevant to Students and graduates;
- Times Higher Education: higher education jobs, news and resources for the academic community;
- One Step Beyond: a Government review investigating the benefits of postgraduate education for the UK economy, employers, higher education institutions and the students themselves;
- The Research Councils' Graduate Schools Programme (RCGSP) www.gradschools.ac.uk well established annual series of career and personal development courses run exclusively for PhD students. On these a number of postgraduates will get together to meet managers and researchers working in industry, to work together on case studies and simulations, and to be introduced to the variety of jobs on offer on completion of their research. They are also an excellent way to learn about and to start developing relevant personal transferable skills.
- PhD Comics: comic strip charting the “ongoing chronicle of life (or the lack thereof) in graduate school”. Many a true word is spoken in jest!
- 10-step regime for steering postgrad students through the final stages of their thesis
- How not to write a thesis or how to fail your PhD
- Want to hire creative risk-takers? Doctoral graduates could be the answer
Last fully updated 2013