Careers and Employability Service
Services for research staff and PhDs

Careers outside academia


If you are considering a career change these pages cover exploring different career options as well as offering advice on making applications and attending interviews for posts outside academic research.

The facts and figures

There are differences between subject disciplines but in general over 50 per cent of PhD graduates leave academic research within six months of completing their degree*. More will leave as post doctoral researchers and the reasons for doing so can be very varied, the point is that it can be very usual to investigate other career options.

* Source: Vitae - What Do Researchers Do? 

Beginning a career change process

You could consider the type of career change you want to make. Click on the links below for further information.


Incremental changes

  •  Continuing to use your specialist research interests ─ this may be possible but it may limit the number of opportunities available
  • Utilising your academic discipline background ─ for example, working as a research chemist or social science researcher or working in an employment sector related to your discipline but not in a research role
  • Continuing to work in higher education but not in research or teaching roles ─ this may allow you to use organisational understanding and experiences but you may have to consider the effect on you of supporting others to do work you once did yourself

Changing the emphasis of your skills and experience

  •  Using your experience as a professional researcher but in areas unrelated to your discipline ─ for example, research officer roles in a business or in not-for-profit and public sector organisations
  • Building on experiences you have enjoyed or can demonstrate competence in for the next stage of your career ─ for example, managing people and/or projects, writing and communicating or training others

A total change

It is more usual now that an individual may completely change their career direction during their working lives and there may be a number of reasons why they consider changing their career, from family and lifestyle reasons to wanting to do something different. These changes can involve:

  • moving into self employment
  • re-training to begin again in a new area of work
  • turning a passion, skill or interest into their career

Such large changes take time to plan and prepare for, especially if you are considering strating your own business or need to re-train.


Research yourself

It is also important that you consider what you want from your next career move and what skills and experiences you may already have had which may help you to make a transition.

Use the analysing your professional skills, interests and strengths section in the career management overview for resources which may help with this.


Researching opportunities

Adopting a two stage approach to researching opportunities is beneficial although the time you may be able to give to the first element of the research may be limited.

  • Initially concentrate on obtaining a broad view of the range of opportunities that you might be interested in
  • Use your research to find out more about employers and organisations as well as the skills and experience they might look for

Avoid restricting your research by looking for specific job titles and salary amounts ─ this happens during a job search rather than at this research stage.


Opportunity research and job search websites


Other resources

In the research staff section of our resource area, you may wish to use the following books:

  • Brilliant Job Hunter’s Manual
  • Dare to Change Your Job and Your Life


Careers and Employability Service

The University of Nottingham
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Nottingham, NG7 2RD

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