Life after a PhD

The big question. The question my mum, dad, friends, randoms on the street have started asking me… “So what are you going to do when you finish your PhD?” . Truthfully, I have no idea. But I have started looking at various options post PhD.

The Obvious

Perhaps the most obvious route to take when finished is to get a postdoctoral placement at a university. These are advertised on university websites but they are also available through word of mouth.  If there is someone or a place you fancy working, get in contact with them, tell them what you can offer and why you want to work with them. They might have some money available to employ you, or might have an idea of a grant you could apply for. I think you really need to put yourself out there and ask. People very rarely will come to you. Networking in academia is incredibly important, so make the most of opportunities at conferences. Post doc positions are also advertised on  alongside  a wealth of advice and support.

The only problem I see with post doctoral placements is that they are short contracts, they are not permanent positions and many people find themselves in an endless circle of post docs, never reaching that elusive permanent job.

The Not so Obvious

There are of course, many other options available post PhD. These options are available to anyone, but just think about what edge someone who has done a PhD may have in these areas.

A brilliant idea may have occurred to you whilst doing your PhD, you could follow this up by starting a business. There is a lot of support for young entrepreneurs out there. The Biotechnology YES competition is a great opportunity to meet others that have started their own business and learn about starting your own. The Scottish Institute for Enterprise also offers lots of help and support for budding entrepreneurs. They also run a summer boot camp to learn business skills. You do not have to have an idea already to do either of these, they will prepare you to spot a good idea if when it comes along.

If you are not quite ready to go it alone but you have had enough of academic life, the chances are that you are looking for a job.  Doing a PhD gives you many, many, many skills and the government, not-for-profit organisations and industry all need people with the skills you have. Check out and you will see that there are a wide range of jobs and opportunities available. You just have to pin down what it is you want to do and go for it.

If you are still doing your PhD, now is an excellent time to try out different career options to try and pin point what it is you would like to do when you finish. You might think you know exactly what that is – but what happens if you start your dream post doc placement then find you hate it? Now is the time to explore different options, so use it! Take part in business competitions like Biotechnology Yes, enter The Guardian writing competition, and try work placements in different industries.

If anyone else has any other hints, tips advice or links please share in the comments.


About Heather Doran

I am a PhD student at the University of Aberdeen. My PhD is Molecular Biology and Pharmacology based. I studied Molecular Biology and Biochemistry with a year in Industry at Durham University. I then went on to work in research and development in the consumer goods industry for 12 months. I decided for my long term career and for my own personal interests I wanted to pursue a PhD – so I went for it and I am enjoying (nearly) every minute! I am really passionate about science communication and I get involved in lots of different activities that are available through the University and through being a PhD student. I hope my blog will be useful for people who are thinking of doing a PhD in any subject and also for those that are studying for their PhDs at the moment.

3 Responses to Life after a PhD

  1. Iphigeneia Mariou says:

    “So long! And thanks for the Phd!” Ronald Azuma said once …

    There must be SOME sort of “life” after a PhD…. 😉 the thing is: would you get a proper job or a postdoc?

  2. Iphigeneia Mariou says:

    All the best Heather! I’m sure you’ll figure out the answer to the ultimate question sooner or later 😉

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