Careers and Employability Service
Services for PhD students

PhD pathways

Woman standing around a table of people

PhD graduates from Nottingham work in a wide variety of careers and in a variety of job roles within and outside academia.

Using a broad pathways approach helps to initiate career action earlier and offers you a way of exploring your options before rushing to the job search stage.

Jumping to the job search stage tends to happen if you leave career decision-making to the end of your PhD. Understandably at this time the pressure to get a job and earn a salary becomes the driving force.

The PhD pathway graphic below illustrates the possible broad pathways for all PhD students. The three options at the top of the graphic show that there can be overlaps between your skills, your academic discipline and your specialist research when you are exploring your options.


PhD pathways

Academic career 

It is important to understand the career journey from PhD to academic. Exploring how you might need to develop as a researcher, teacher and manager can help to identify whether this is the career for you.

Find out about an academic career  

Careers using professional research skills 

Professional research skills such as exploration, analysis and critical thinking are used in many roles and organisations from charities to commercial businesses. Some PhD students will want to combine these skills with working in an organisation or role which will also use their broad academic discipline background. For example: policy analyst or research officer in a think tank.

Careers using specialist research skills outside academia 

There could also be opportunities to focus on a particular skill or PhD experience and use that to investigate career options. If you have enjoyed writing and communicating, would a career in academic publishing be an option?

For some their specialist research area is in demand - wearable technologies and renewable energies would be recent examples.

Careers using your academic discipline

Another option for exploration could be generated by moving back into the breadth of your academic discipline and considering different roles and organisations within this context.

Some options in the vocational disciplines such as engineering and science would be obvious. For others there may be a need to explore organisations connected to your discipline.

The commercialisation of research

Dr Alasdair Taylor, PhD alumnus, is the Industry Programme Manager at The Royal Society. He talks about how he became interested in how research ideas were commercialised and the roles he has undertaken.


Graduate careers

The graduate career pathway is one that can be overlooked or seen as a 'step backwards'. Some PhDs do want to explore a complete change of career direction, it does not mean that they have been unsuccessful or have had a bad experience, they may simply want to do something different.

Find out more about graduate careers

Careers and Employability Service

University of Nottingham
Portland Building, Level D
University Park
Nottingham, NG7 2RD

telephone: +44 (0) 115 951 3680
fax: +44 (0) 115 951 3679