Research suggests that a postgraduate qualification often increases your chances of employment but does not guarantee it. A survey by the Vitae analysed the career destinations of PhD graduates from 2003 to 2005, tracking the labour market for those with research degrees. This is the most recent research available and the report suggests that a PhD will have a positive impact on both your future career and your salary.
PhD graduates can offer a great deal in todays knowledge-based economy where highly skilled people are in demand. However, a PhD in itself is no guarantee of higher-level entry into employment, or of a higher salary. Whether recruiting within education, research or industry, employers seek personal skills, qualities and work experience, in addition to academic achievement. See what employers want to find out why a PhD alone is not enough.
In 2005, the UKGrad Programme analysis published in What Do PhDs Do? found that:
- 80% of UK-domiciled PhD graduates entered the workplace;
- 3.6% were unemployed six months after graduating (compared with 6.2% for graduates with a first degree and 4.2% for MSc graduates);
- 50% were employed in the education sector, including 22% in teaching and also 22% in postdoctoral research;
- 14% took up research careers outside academia.
The report demonstrates that a PhD can take graduates beyond academia and research, with PhD holders transferring their high-level skills into a wide range of sectors. For example:
- 6.1% of PhDs became health professionals;
- 4.5% made a career in engineering;
- 3.9% went to jobs in business and finance;
- 7% entered commercial and public sector management roles.
When you are researching for a PhD, you naturally tend to focus down on your research. But when considering your career options, it is often beneficial to do the opposite. Thinking laterally about your career options, and increasing your awareness of employers and the opportunities they offer, will often reveal opportunities for career development you have never considered before.
Employers value skills in research, communication, consultancy and commercial awareness. Develop these and the job market will be more welcoming than if you merely present yourself as an academic.
Careers in academia? and a career outside academia? should help you to decide which sector your own career path will begin in.