What can I do with my PhD? Research and professional training

What can I do with my PhD?

Your education, learning and training doesn’t have to stop with your PhD qualification. Explore your options for further research in your field or consider professional training in another role or sector. What are your longer term career ambitions and what is required to get there?

Postdoctoral research

For many subject areas, more especially science and technology, postdoctoral research is the next step for an academic career or to strengthen a research profile with a view to move into industry.

In a postdoctoral research position, you will be expected to show more independence, taking full responsibility for the project. You may also take on additional roles such as the supervision of research students and the management of staff. You are also likely to get involved with the writing of research proposals and administrative tasks such as representing researchers on university committees, not to mention publishing papers.

Postdoctoral research opportunities are less common in the fields of arts and humanities.

If you are an early career researcher or academic, you may wish to take advantage of training and development opportunities at your university that you didn’t have time for during your PhD. This could include a teaching qualification for higher education, or research tools and techniques you would like to utilise.

Vocational and professional training

After completing your PhD you may decide that you want to make a significant change in career, requiring further vocational training or professional education.

This could involve further study either full time or part time. Some examples you could consider include:

  • Teaching: there are several different routes into teaching, including the one-year Postgraduate Certificate in Education (PGCE), the Teach First programme and other school-based routes.
  • Social work: you can complete a masters degree in social work to qualify as a social worker or there are other options including the Frontline programme.
  • Legal professions: qualify as a barrister or solicitor. You can take a law conversion course (the Graduate Diploma in Law). This one-year course allows you to convert to a career in law irrespective of your existing qualifications. Passing the law conversion course entitles you to move on to the Legal Practice Course (LPC), if you want to become a solicitor, or the Bar Professional Training Course (BPTC), if you wish to train as a barrister.
  • Accountancy: is another option and involves studying for professional qualifications on the job.
  • NHS management: working for the National Health Service (NHS) is another option and postgraduate vocational qualifications are available for graduate management trainees.
  • Health professions: graduate entry is possible for medicine and other health professions.
  • Civil Service fast stream: some of the policy and analytical roles will require you to do further relevant training and qualifications.
  • Patent attorney: working while studying for the examinations set by the Chartered Institute of Patent Attorneys (CIPA).

Written by Fiona McNamara, University of Liverpool, August 2016