Only a tiny per cent of PhD students will end up as university professors. The Royal Society provides a snapshot of data that indicates just 0.45% of PhDs in the scientific areas become full professors. Which means the majority of PhDs have ‘alternative’ careers. Why is a non-academic career path considered alternative when it is more common than an academic one?
Coming through a doctoral program gives you a very narrow view of your career options. It can be daunting to think about working outside of the academy when everyone around you has taken the ‘traditional’ route and gauges success by a tenure track position. At the start of this year, I began a new series of blog posts interviewing people who are taking a less ‘traditional’ route during or after their PhD. This quickly became some of my most popular content in particular for graduate students who were motivated by the wide range of side income and non-academic careers of their peers. Click on any of the links to read the interview. Because of the range in PhD specialisation, not every career option is open to every PhD discipline but as I continue to interview PhDs this list will grow with more and more range and examples.
Examples of career options and side hustle
- Research Scientist
- Independent Researcher
- Entrepreneur – Products
- Entrepreneur – Services
- Entrepreneur – Consultancy/Coaching
- Book author
- Medical Writer
- Museum Employee
- The Scientific Beauty – Sophie Cook
- Fancy Scientist – Stephanie Schuttler
- Waste Free PhD – Laura Markley
- Dr.OfWhat – Brianna Le Busque
- Scholar Culture – Christine Streeter
- Me My Cells and I – Julia Ravey
- Style by Toyin – Toyin Alli
- The Salty Scientist – Melissa Pierce
- Research Whisperer – Jonathan O’Donnell and Tseen Khoo
- Science communicator
- Press & Social Media officer
My goal is to showcase as many different career paths you can take with a PhD so please reach out to me with interviewee requests or nominations.
If you want to thrive outside academia you need to develop your unique value proposition (what you do better than others). A personal brand can help you leverage your doctoral degree and stand out in a very big crowd (see this post on how a personal brand helps PHDs get hired or check out my course Establish Your Personal Brand.