Career Opportunities for PhD Graduates: Exploring Paths Beyond Academia

As the world is suffering from the consequences of the global pandemic and increasing political tensions, many PhD graduates feel an increasing fear for their future. New state grants and subsidies become closely linked with a narrow range of ‘strategically significant’ areas for national independence. Multiple studies are showing clear PhD oversupply problems where 3+ graduates are fighting for a single position in academia.

Overall, the current situation is not expected to improve as budgeting is becoming more and more scarce while universities are cutting excess job positions to stay afloat. In this article, we analyse a number of paths beyond academia that you can unlock with your phd thesis. While some graduates are afraid of these ‘roads less travelled’, they may actually provide superior opportunities for university employment and help you realise your career aspirations more effectively.

1. Industry Employment

Industry jobs offer a large number of benefits for PhD students willing to not pursue a career in academia:

  • Employers are looking for valuable skills and ideas and are willing to pay good money for your knowledge and expertise.
  • Your career growth is not limited by the presence of ‘openings’ in a limited number of senior positions occupied by the same persons for decades.
  • Many governments are presently providing sponsorships to industry-academia collaboration projects in a number of developing spheres.
  • Your progress is not limited by a single employer, which means that you generally have a wider choice of options.

While the benefits above are sufficient to give an industry career some thought, pursuing it requires some careful preparation and substantial effort on your part. You can start with the selection of a topic creating value for practitioners in some sphere and organising a PhD internship in your area of interest. This will allow you to apply your skills and ideas to real-world projects and to start building a network of contacts you can contact to realise them later. In many cases, you can get solid job offerings during your internships and start working full-time right after defending your phd dissertation.

2. Entrepreneurship

This option is slightly riskier than the previous one and is most suitable for PhD graduates working on highly innovative ideas that can be converted into marketable products. If you already have the most cutting-edge knowledge in a certain field that makes you an expert in it, you may choose to create these offerings by yourself. There exist dozens of business incubators offering external funding to entrepreneurs and startup companies with good potential. This option may require some additional work on your part but may be more lucrative to some PhD graduates seeking maximum independence. Here are some ideas on how you can realise this career opportunity:

  • Obtain all documents confirming your intellectual property and your status as an original inventor of the technology explored by your PhD thesis.
  • Use the aforementioned PhD internships to gain some industry contacts prior to your graduation.
  • Visit ‘talent fairs’ and ‘startup career fairs’ to attract the attention of potential investors.
  • Seek guidance from experienced industry leaders rather than instant financial support.
  • Show the value you can provide to your potential investors if they choose you.

Let us be honest, creating a successful startup company as an entrepreneur is a daunting task for many PhD graduates. However, if you feel that your ideas can help you successfully pursue this career, you should consider giving it a try. After all, a failure to start a successful company within 6-12 months is still a better option than pursuing an academic career with a mediocre salary and not getting promoted for several years.

3. Government Jobs

Your research skills, analytical mindset, and expertise in a wide range of subjects also make you a perfect candidate for government jobs. Such institutions as the American Cancer Society, the National Institute of Health, and many others are all looking for professionals willing to ‘think outside the box’ who also possess cutting-edge knowledge in certain fields. Here are just some of the career opportunities offered by employers in this sphere:

  • External experts used to support specific policy decisions.
  • Researchers investigating some challenges and offering potential solutions to them.
  • Big data analysts tracking large trends in societies and industries.
  • Science policy advisors and public policy advisors.
  • Policy analysts.
  • Regulatory affairs and life science specialists.

Effectively, a wide range of government agencies means that PhD specialists from most fields of study can find jobs compatible with their knowledge. At the same time, you may have to consider relocation in many cases since the need for people with your specific competencies may not exist in your area. Additionally, the presence or absence of country citizenship may be a barrier in some regions. For example, all experts working for the US federal government must be US nationals or citizens, which may be a problem if you are an international PhD student.

4. Consulting

The growing demand for consultancy services is not limited to the public sector. Here is just a brief list of spheres in which your PhD knowledge can be sought by individual users and commercial firms:

  • Consulting experts in narrow spheres such as medicine, legislation or manufacturing.
  • Data analyses performed for individual customers to solve their specific problems.
  • Strategic problem-solving research projects focusing on larger client challenges.
  • Assistance in the development of a new organisational vision incorporating modern technologies.
  • Consulting in advanced spheres such as AI, big data or machine learning.

In most of the scenarios listed above, firms lack internal competencies in a niche sphere that potentially holds substantial value for them. The use of consulting services helps them resolve their long-term problems or find new ways of improving their performance. With that being said, a PhD diploma may not be sufficient for successfully transferring into such a sphere. Here are some suggestions on how you can prepare for a career in consulting in advance:

  • Undergo internship in business firms to obtain practical problem-solving skills.
  • Learn more about the key customer pains in your area of interest.
  • Work on your soft skills to effectively communicate with customers and promote your offerings.
  • Make your solutions and explanations easy to understand for an average user.

Overall, the preparation for a career in consulting may take sufficient time for a PhD graduate due to the need to obtain some specialised skills and move away from complex problem-solving in niche spheres to practical solutions for generic customer pains. However, it may be well worth it in the long-term perspective due to the growth of this sphere in many regions of the world.

5. Non-Profits

Not-for-profit organisations such as the Gates Foundation or national funds are experiencing an increasing need for competent researchers. PhD students with relevant knowledge may be an ideal solution for them due to their capability to work with large volumes of data and solve complex problems. Specific positions may include:

  • Consultants.
  • Programme coordinators.
  • Project managers.
  • Policy developers.
  • Researchers.

Non-profits deal with a wide range of problems ranging from public sector research to industry R&D, science outreach, frugal innovation, and training and support provision. In this scenario, you may want to evaluate existing openings in advance and contact your prospective employers before you complete writing your phd thesis. Your recruitment may require some mutual adjustments and having some time to acquire additional skills may be a bonus. Such career opportunities usually involve the need for relocation and/or travelling to different locations, which may be a benefit for some PhD graduates and a major disadvantage to others.


There exist multiple opportunities beyond the five options discussed earlier that range from starting your YouTube popular science podcast to providing phd thesis writing services to other PhD students. In the world of gig economy and global connectivity, new career options may emerge on a daily basis. However, we would advise you to view your preferred career path as a challenging journey rather than a walk in the park. Building a solid career in the five areas above may be less difficult than succeeding in academia and becoming a full-time professor by your early forties. However, this does not mean that these opportunities are inherently easier or involve less competition.

If there is a single word defining success or failure in the modern labour market, this word is ‘value’. As a PhD graduate, you need to instantly show why a certain employer should recruit you and what practical advantages they can get by making this decision. If you feel that your current PhD topic is not specifically tailored for your future career in the industry or any other of the analysed spheres, feel free to contact our phd writing service for guidance. Our experts have years of expertise in phd research writing under their belts and can get your project going in the right direction. Starting things right from the onset is always better than changing your course afterwards, which is why we would suggest consulting with specialists in the field to minimise your career risks in the future.