Is There Life After PhD? Jobs Market is Terrifying...


That's fine if your PhD has a real-world application, though, wj_gibson. My Arts PhD does not - it's Film Studies and purely theoretical. The only possible way of applying this to a job is if the job is in academia.

"Five years "real world" experience pre-PhD isn't going to make any difference at all, it's simply going to look to an employer as though you're just trying to get back to something you left behind in favour of academia if you're just going back into the same thing." Exactly the problem. Only now we're trying to get back into the same thing, but we're manifestly over-qualified, and any employer with an ounce of common sense is going to know that we're not a good long-term prospect for the company. I don't have an "industry" as such for my PhD - God knows, the film industry isn't interested in academic qualifications (despite the well-meaning suggestions of many an advisor at the Jobs and Benefits Office). There is no "practitioner" option for me. My PhD is not relevant to anything outside of an academic career. I still don't regret doing the PhD - it was the most professionally satisfying period of my life, I loved it and felt privileged to have the opportunity to do it - but I would be in a much, much better position, economically and professionally, if I hadn't done it. I'm working now, but ONLY because I was able to make my pre-PhD experience work for me, and it is on a much lower professional scale and with much reduced responsibilities to what I had before. It's glorified data entry work, basically, but I'm lucky to have it - I spent a year on Jobseeker's Allowance and I have no intention of going back to that.


My PhD was purely academic too, though. There aren't many opportunities out there in the "real world" to keep researching anti-globalisation protest movements. Few PhDs are ever going to be in a position to apply their research subject directly to the workplace. Indeed, given the way academic funding streams are going, I don't think too many academics even have that chance much nowadays (the pressure of the REF is leading some departments to prescribe journal titles that they expect their academics to publish in, which has enormous implications for the subject matter, paradigm, methodologies for research, etc). You don't get to "research what you want" in academia nowadays anyway; the PhD actually gives a bit of a false impression of academic realities.

But there was no "practitioner" option for me either. To become a practitioner doesn't entail having an intimate knowledge of the subject in question. If you end up working as a private sector research consultant like I do you can be asked to research pretty much anything. The "practitioner" aspect refers specifically to being able to meet the much tighter timescales and different demands of business clients vis-a-vis the glacial rate of academic research, it doesn't mean you have to have an intimate knowledge of any subject in particular. No one who works in market research or business consultancy went in at an entry level with any knowledge of the things they later become niche experts in. Some of the posts in the forum do give the impression that PhDs have a habit of talking themselves out of the huge range of things that they can realistically transfer into (if they're willing to accept going in at a normal graduate level, with the low pay and low status this intially entails). I used to be like that. I know my housemate, who recently finished a Tourism Studies PhD sees himself as unemployable. A lot of this is just psychological, the real barriers notwithstanding.


wow, maybe it's not wise to terrify the other postgrads with such a bleak projection of the future. i believe that ur phd is what u make of it.

u can choose to make it an asset by highlighting all that u have learned in the process of attaining it, and then turn this into a marketable niche. or..

u can denounce it as a mistake by reliving all the inconveniences it has brought u. living in rewind doesnt help.

decide to move forward and make the best of things.


Eimeo's reasoning is right, I think. I totally agree that the generic skills such as project management, report writing, etc are completely useless in the job markets both in the public and private sectors. PhD students that have never had a proper job for some reason keep telling themselves that they have some transferrable skills. It is a terrible job hunting strategy to emphasise such transferrable skills (because at the end of the day, no employer cares). My friend from Oxford is in a similar situation as you. His case is not that his PhD has no practical applications, but that his PhD is so specialised such that no employer wants to interview him.

I have 2 suggestions.

1) Can you try an entry level position in both public and private sectors? I have seen applicants in their early 30s with zero relevant work experience and want to do a graduate scheme (or maybe someone who wants to retrain). Once you turn 35, it becomes hard really hard for employers to overlook your age despite the age discrimination things. Good news is that many of these applicants have been successful. They will have to work on 25 - 35k and work their way up. Whether you can apply for a graduate scheme depends on how much work experience you had had before your PhD.


Continued from the previous post,

2) Can you try an administrative job in academia and the public sector? I don't see why you can't work in the careers service. It's got be better than working in the department of media and communications as a postdoc researcher with no benefits such as 25 - 30 holidays, dentals (only those of us with the dental know how precious this is!), subsidised gym membership, pensions etc. You might have to start an a trainee, but you still have 30 years ahead of you, so I don't see why not.

You can also join the university as an administrator and can work your way up to senior and director level with 50k pa. Your job is likely to be more stable than professors in the same university and you do not have to move.


Thanks, Reader! For my own part, though, an administrative job in academia isn't for me. It's just not why I did the PhD. I guess the more that the academic dream drifts further away, the more I realise that it's not about working in *a university* so much as doing the interesting work. If it's going to be a question of just working for survival, I think I'd almost rather be doing that somewhere that I'm *not* surrounded by people who've made it in the profession I couldn't break into. I'm feeling quite embittered about the whole thing, but that will pass, I'm sure...


Agree with some of these posts, the job market seems a bit bleak for us PhD-ers (although may differ between fields).

I was offered a permanent part time psychology relevant job yesterday which I've verbally accepted as I'm retraining to be a health psychologist. It's a non-graduate job and poorly paid (well poorly paid in terms of previous experience and qualifications), but it's something I guess and is highly relevant for my chartered psychologist training. I'm going to split the remainder of my time publishing my PhD work to improve my researcher and postdoc prospects. I'll be on probation for 6 months for this new position, but hopefully in 6 months I'll have my PhD and some publications to start searching for more qualified and highly paid jobs. There maybe a little psychological protection/cognitive dissonance going on here, but a less high profile and arguably less academically demanding job will allow me some freedom to focus on my publications. During the wait for examiners verdict, I know I had some success with shortlisting etc for researcher/PostDoc jobs, so that's something I guess. I really don't want to end up going on unemployment benefits/job seekers after all this drama with my PhD, which would be utterly soul destroying for me!

I'm also thinking about using my networks to search for any 1 day a week positions to continue building up any research or teaching experience (even if it's unpaid). Also volunteering 1 day a week within other non academic organizations to continue building up relevant experience to improve future employment prospects and current training commitments.


Sometimes you think your skills are not transferable, but they really are. I attended the course at my uni about applying for jobs outside academia, and I can share my experience with you