When seeking out opportunities at PhD level, you need to consider a few different approaches, including networking. The Careers Service receives vacancies at PhD level, especially from certain sectors, and these are advertised on JobsLive.

phd level work

You shouldn't rely exclusively on the Careers Service, however, and at PhD level you need to make your own direct approaches and enquiries by networking with colleagues, past and present, as well as with external contacts and through research on the internet and in specialist journals.

Large, multinational companies and smaller enterprises recruit people with PhDs, sometimes notifying the Careers Service or sometimes expecting you to approach them direct through a speculative application.

Some large companies have a section of their website where PhD applicants can post up their CV to be considered for a role in a specialist area related to their PhD, or, if they prefer, PhD applicants can apply through the standard graduate scheme entry route. 

Research centres, independent laboratories and government research establishments advertise when they want to recruit.  Companies seeking technical skills and expertise may use specialist media or recruitment consultancies to advertise their vacancies.

Options and directions at PhD level

Options and directions at PhD level

Directly related to PhD

Scientists and engineers with a PhD can choose to work in research using their discipline directly, either in

  1. Academia, such as postdoctoral positions and lecturing
  2. Industry, including research, design and development roles 

1. Academia 

If you are looking to find work in academia then the best time to meet employers is at conferences and seminars where you can make the most of networking opportunities.  Find out more about the process of networking on the Vitae website. This website also has further information on launching an academic career.

You may find it very valuable to attend courses in skills development and in career planning, run by the Graduate School.

For Lectureships, research fellowships and postdoctoral research opportunities, the following resources may be helpful:
International - Academic Job Opportunities in Europe & Worldwide
  • Academic Jobs EU - Site for academic and research jobs in Europe
  • Association of Commonwealth Universities 
  • www.academic360.com  - International collection of resources for academic job hunters, mainly covering US, Canada, Australia and UK
  • US Chronicle - Higher Education vacancies in US academic sector - the American version of THES (Times Higher Education Supplement)
  • Science Careers (from the journal 'Science') - Dedicated to being the world leader in matching qualified scientists with jobs in industry, academia and government agencies.
  • VITAE - Further details on working outside of the UK can be found on the Vitae website for researchers. 
  • 'Your PhD - what next?' has a section on a career in research in academia 
  • The Vitae website for researchers includes useful info including a section on 'managing yourself' as a postgraduate, with useful resources for developing your career
  • Universities UK - 'Voice of UK universities', promoting well-funded higher education, leading edge research and good practice in teaching and learning
  • Quality Assurance Agency for Higher Education - National organisation promoting, auditing and managing quality standards
  • Higher Education Funding Council - ensures accountability through the Research Excellence Framework (REF) and distributes public money for teaching and research in HE
  • 'Moving On in Your career' - A guide for Academic Researchers and Postgraduates by Linda Ali and Barbara Graham (reference copy available in Careers Information Room)
  • See the 'exploring your options' section to see similar titles

2. Industry 

You will already have some ideas about the industry sectors that relate most closely to your area of research and perhaps also which employers you would be interested in applying to and developing your research. You can find out where past PhD-holders in your department or research group have gone by asking academic staff and postdocs, and by networking. You can also find out about industrial collaborations and partnerships, spin-out companies and associated industries that have opportunities for holders of PhDs in your area. 

Don't overlook the importance of networking externally, too, in order to research and explore opportunities to develop your career in areas outside academia that are still quit e closely related to your research area.

To explore opportunities in industry related to your PhD, the following are good starting points:
  • The professional institute, body or society that relates to your area of research and to your first degree could be where you start to research options in industry related to your PhD: there may be useful links on the professional body's website e.g. associated groups or special interest groups, a membership directory (listing employers in that sector), technical consultants, a careers section, or a vacancy noticeboard;   you can also approach organisations or individuals direct for more information or to ask for advice 
  • The website of the Research Council funding your research may have information signposting you to the industry sectors or employers interested in future applications of your research
  • 'Your PhD - what next?' has a section on careers outside academia 
  • Sector Briefings on science and engineering
  • The contacts and resources, located at the end of any AGCAS Occupational Profiles that interest you are useful sources of further information on those careers
  • You could also try an archive search by occupation or employer on websites such as New Scientist to bring up relevant articles or case studies
  • See the Case Studies: careers in research from Research Councils UK - RCUK Careers in Research hosts an online suite of stories providing an insight about life as a researcher and the different career paths which researchers take. The stories feature researchers from all seven Research Councils and cover a broad range of disciplines. New case studies are added to the site regularly

Indirectly related to PhD

Roles such as technical consultancy, patent work, industrial marketing, applying numerical modelling techniques in a technical role, or working as a clinical research associate in the pharmaceutical sector, communicating science through technical writing or scientific journalism, or training to teach your subject at secondary school - are all examples of the many possible roles that draw on your wider science/engineering background and skills but involve moving away from your specific area of research. 

These roles require you to keep broadly up to date in your area but not at the same level of specialist knowledge as is required in Research and Development. You will also need to build on skills from your PhD such as project management and develop new skills and expertise. 

To generate ideas for occupations using your broad background in science and engineering but not your specific area, try the following:
  • Options with your subject - A collection of information sheets, based around 76 different degree subjects. Although these are aimed at recent graduates, they signpost you to occupations related to your broader science or engineering background, including skills gained, jobs related to the degree, who employs graduates from that subject, further study and further information
  • Try using Prospects Planner (interactive guidance)
  • 'Your PhD - what next?' can help you identify options and make you aware of what skills you have to offer
The following resources will enable you to focus your research further:
  • Sector Briefings for the main job sectors such as Engineering, Science, Health or Environment; depending on your area of interest, these briefings provide you with a brief overview and identify key roles within each sector such as Legal Services for Patent Work or Education for Teaching and there are links to related occupations and to further resources
  • Contacts and resources, located at the end of AGCAS Occupational Profiles provide the basis for further research as well as networking 

You may find it very valuable also to attend courses in skills development and in career planning, run by the Graduate Schools

Change of direction

You could choose to do something quite different and still apply and use the skills and experience you've gained on your degree and PhD.

Scientists and engineers work in many different professions ranging from financial services, banking, fund management to marketing, market research, law, public relations or the public sector - NHS, Civil Service, local government or charity administration;  the list is by no means finite. In new roles such as these, scientists and engineers transfer the skills developed on their PhD as well as on their first degree to their new career and undertake further training, to develop new skills and expertise. 

The new career may mean that you no longer call yourself a scientist or engineer; however, because of your particular background, you may find yourself working in the future with colleagues or with clients who are scientists/engineers, as well as continuing to use and develop the skills gained on your PhD and on your first degree.

To generate ideas for new career options altogether
The following resources will enable you to focus your research further:
  • Sector Briefings for the main job sectors such as Engineering, Science, Health or Environment, produced by Prospects;  depending on your area of interest, these briefings provide you with a brief overview and identify key roles within each sector such as Legal Services - patent work or Education - teaching, with useful links to related occupations as well as to further resources for more in-depth career research
  • The contacts and resources, located at the end of any of the AGCAS Occupational Profiles that interest you are also useful sources of further information on possible careers and related areas 
Careers Service events and resources

Consider attending employer events specifically targeted at PhD students (advertised through JobsLive) or a 'Careers in Focus' event or UK Grad course and contact your Graduate School at Imperial to see if there are courses being run in career planning. Don't overlook the importance of networking through contacts you already have such as alumni or people you meet at conferences, courses and careers events. 

There may be events that are organised during the year in your department which you could also use for networking and talk to prospective employers about opportunities for PhDs in their organisation. The Imperial Graduate School Schools runs skills development and career planning courses for PhD students.