Research degrees pave the way for a variety of careers. In the past PhDs essentially prepared for a career in academia. This is no longer the case. Many discussions about outcomes of the PhD are held at various places. While some suggest the aging academic workforce may create a demand for young academics, many tend to agree on the need to prepare research students for a range of careers.
You want to hear or read more about this debate:
- Thanks academia, soon I will join a generation of jobless PhDs (The Conversation 15/01/2014).
- Too Many PhDs? (Big Ideas, Radio National. 08/04/2013) or The challenges facing early career scientists (ABC RN 16/10/2014).
- Are PhD graduates expecting too much? (The Conversation 19/03/2013.
- Fix the PhD (Nature 472, 21/04/2011).
- The disposable academic. Why doing a PhD is often a waste of time (The Economist 16/12/2010).
- Meeting Australia’s research workforce needs. A consultation paper to inform the development of the Australian government’s research workforce strategy, (DIISR Department of Innovation, Industry, Science and Research, 2010).
- Beyond the PhD – What next after the PhD? A UK site offering personal and professional insights into life after the PhD.
- 21 May 2015, available from http://www.timeshighereducation.co.uk/features/phd-is-the-doctoral-thesis-obsolete/2020255.fullarticle. , P. (2015). ‘PhD: is the doctoral thesis obsolete’, Times Higher Education
It may therefore be a good idea to be aware of the range of possibilities available. The following institutions and organisations all employ people with research degrees, but offer very different work environments.
- Public research and teaching institution, such as universities
- Public research institutions
- Public service organisations
- Private research, production or services organisations
- International organisations
You may also consider becoming an independent researcher; in this case you will have to consider how your research will be funded.
A list of sites to help you find a job are posted below. Some of these regularly advertise academic or research positions. Many sites, allow you to set up an account and receive regular information about jobs coming up. This list is far from exhaustive. We have not, for instance, listed all the organisations’ job pages. If you have some organisations you would like to consider as potential employer visit their website and find out what sort of skills they are looking for.
The research degree as an opportunity to acquire job skills.
When applying for a job, you will have to defend the quality and extent of research and other professional skills acquired. You will need to respond to questions such as:
- How has your research project equipped you with knowledge that counts for the job you want?
- What practical skills have you developed? Research, project management, time management, written and oral communication.
- Which know-how did you acquire? Operating of software tools, understanding of certain organisations, environments, etc.
You will also need to demonstrate and provide evidence of skills acquisition.
University of Canberra’s policy on generic skills for Higher Degree Researchers aims to assist you to be equipped with skills and expertise required to be workforce ready. It does so by explicitly setting out skills researchers are expected to have.
Development of skills should take into account your dreams and plans for a career. Applying for an academic job is not the same as employing for a career in the private sector. When applying for an academic position, you’ll need to put forward your publications and teaching skills. Therefore, you will need to prioritise publications and teaching.
If you work as a casual academic at UC, make sure you understand your employment conditions. Consider joining the NTEU (National Tertiary Education Union) which negotiates working conditions for all employees and can represent you if needed.
Network, network, network
Spend no more than thirty hours a week on the thesis. Spend another ten to twenty networking like mad, teaching a bit, and attending seminars well outside your field. One reason for writing a thesis is to get a job afterward; another is to be immersed in an intellectual environment. Sitting alone in a room with a computer the whole time won’t necessarily help you achieve the first aim; and certainly not the second.
Many academic and research jobs are obtained through networking, rather than by simply replying to a job ad. This is why networking is so important.
Start networking as soon as you start your degree. It is so easy to get isolated when doing research. Sometimes seminars, conferences and workshops seem a waste of time, particularly if they do not directly deal with your research topic. You have to be out there, get to know other people and places. Check out seminars and conferences; participate in discussions. If you think too much is going on, be strategic, choose activities which best fit your research and future jobs needs.
Another way to network is by using the internet to brand yourself.
The UC Careers Service provides information on job opportunities, as well as career advice, preparing for interviews and assistance with job applications.
Useful resources for career development and finding a job
The Graduate Careers Australia website offers resources on how to best find a job in Australia.
Unijobs is Australia’s University job website. It allows you to search for jobs everywhere in the world. You can sign up to get job updates.
The European University Institute has developed the Academic Careers Observatory. This is an on-line resource for Ph.D. candidates, post-doc fellows and early career scholars who wish to explore and debate academic careers.
Australian job sites
Academic careers online is an Australian site for getting practical experience teaching, as well as searching research and administrative jobs in the USA, Europe, Asia or anywhere else in the world.
Adzuna is a more general job seeking website, including all kind of jobs and not just in Australia.
Seek, the largest job finding site in Australia
Unijobs – Times Higher Education pages for jobs in Australia
Other sites advertising jobs anywhere in the world
Academic360.com (US) is a meta-collection of Internet resources that have been gathered for the academic job hunter. It includes links to faculty, staff and administrative announcements and is not restricted to teaching positions.
European Job Mobility Portal is a tool to find information on jobs and learning opportunities throughout Europe.
Jobs.ac.uk lists jobs in science, research, academic and related employment in the UK and abroad. Advertises vacancies in universities, colleges, research institutions, commercial & public sector bodies, schools and charities.
Nature jobs.com advertises research jobs (science) all over the world.
New Scientist advertises science and technology jobs.
PhD Jobs is an American website, allowing you to search for suitable jobs in the US and abroad.