Careers beyond academia – good resource

Many PhD students are interested in pursuing a career outside academia but aren’t sure about how to make this move or even of what sort of career options are available that may interest them.  One good way to start exploring non-academic careers is to read stories of what other PhD graduates have done.  We have case studies for some of our own PhD graduates on our website plus links to other sources of case studies.

University of Edinburgh PhD graduate career stories

Broad options – other career stories

I recently came across another useful source, from PhD to Life.  It’s a North American site and when I last looked there was a list of more than 70 stories of PhD graduates in disciplines ranging from biomedical physics to medieval studies working in many different career areas.  Not only will you find out about lots of different jobs, but you’ll find out how PhD graduates are using the skills they developed and experience gained through their PhDs, and get some tips about how to make the transition into the non-academic role.  It’s well worth a look.

From PhD to Life – transition stories

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‘Postdoctoral Careers Beyond Academia’

The Scottish Graduate School of Arts and Humanities (SGSAH) recently funded an event for Arts and Humanities PhD students on careers beyond academia. Some of you may have been at it. I thought it worth sharing this blog post describing some of the insights gained from the event.


Since I’m free of D.H. Lawrence (for now!) I’ve got a wee bit more free time on my hands to take part if real life, as well as attending more PhD-related events. So last Thursday I popped up to the University of Stirling to attended the ‘Postdoctoral Careers Beyond Academia’ event, organised by the Faculty of Arts and Humanities, University of Stirling and the HaSS Graduate School, University of Strathclyde, funded by the SGSAH. This was a day long conference with a number of talks from successful arts and humanities and social sciences post-docs, all of whom have chosen to follow career paths outside of academia.

Full disclosure: I genuinely hadn’t considered any other career besides academia. Oh, except being a poet/writer, which, as we all know, is where the money money at (I do it for the love of the subject, the thrill of producing art, the emotional…

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Academic interviews

I seem to have spent quite a bit of time recently giving practice interviews for academic jobs.  The interviews were for research staff working at this University who were applying for lecturing roles at universities across the UK.

For many PhD students, the next step after the PhD –  if you want to stay in academia – is probably a research role (research assistant; research fellow) or a teaching role (teaching assistant; teaching fellow) with the lecturing job coming after you’ve built more experience.  But I thought it would still be useful to share with you a few of the questions that were asked at the interviews as something to ponder on for the future.

  • How would you create collaborations with people at this university?
  • How would your teaching fit into our program? What would you bring?
  • In five years, what should we use to evaluate your success? How will you have made a difference?
  • What research accomplishment are you most proud of and why? What impact did it have (academic and other)?
  • Do you have any anecdotes or feedback about how your research has positively impacted students’ lives?
  • If you had unlimited funds, what project would you work on?
  • What would be your first grant?
  • How would you make a contribution to the Teaching Excellence Framework (TEF)?

Hopefully this will give you some insight into the experience you should be building for the future (some of it during your PhD but also in positions you’ll hold after your PhD).

Look at the Careers Service website for further information on what to expect at academic interviews and for examples of other types of question that may be asked.

Academic interviews

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Opportunities in software development

Murray Crease, Head of Development in the Edinburgh office of Scott Logic, a software development company, spoke at our PhD-employer networking event at the start of October.  He told students attending that:

  • the company is always interested in talking to PhD students (from many subject areas) who are motivated to work in software development.  They’re happy to talk informally about potential opportunities.
  • that they are open to interviewing a year before the likely completion of the PhD and will hold the position open. This gives the student the space to complete their studies without having to worry about job hunting in those frantic last few months.

I thought you’d be interested in reading a post on the Scott Logic blog about their recent hires of PhD graduates in neuroscience, physics and maths.  You can find it at the link below or I’ve copied the whole text underneath.

PhD entrants into Scott Logic

From the blog:

Scott Logic welcomes influx of PhDs


We’re proud to have welcomed four academics to bolster our high-calibre workforce in recent weeks. The new starters, all of whom are based in our Newcastle development centre, joined Scott Logic as software developers during October, the most recent starting just today!

Two of the new developers, Michael, 28, and Paul, 27, completed their studies safe in the knowledge they had a job to go to, as both accepted their offers of employment around a year ago.

Michael, from Cramlington in Northumberland, who has a PhD in systems neuroscience from Newcastle University, even attended last year’s Christmas party in an effort to get to know his new colleagues well in advance of his first day.

He said: “The job offer from Scott Logic took the pressure off. A lot of the academics around me were stressing throughout the final year of the research, right up until the end in some cases, and some had put off job-hunting until they completed their doctorate.

“As I had a job lined up, it meant I could take a short break and spend some relaxation time with my wife Ashley after my PhD, rather than having to begin the search.”

Similarly, Paul, from Sunderland, who has just completed his PhD in neuroscience at Newcastle University, focusing on the brain’s interaction with and interpretation of 3D technology said: “I was offered the job in October 2015, and that meant I could relax somewhat. It focused my attention to help make my research more enjoyable.”

After a couple of months of respite, during which keen sportsman Paul also met several of his team mates at the Scott Logic summer party, the pair are enjoying their transition into industry so far.

Michael, who initially studied Physics at the University of York before completing an MSc in Computer Science at Imperial College London and converting to an MSc in Advanced Computer Science at Newcastle University, said: “It’s a steep learning curve, but not too dissimilar in many ways to my PhD, which looked into the nitty gritty of how the brain works, in particular focusing on the visual cortex.”

And Paul, who had been keen to remain in his native North East as he prepares to become a father, added: “I’m still very much learning the ropes, but the work is very interesting and everyone has been very friendly. I’m particularly enjoying the problem solving aspects of the role.”

Originally from Loughborough, Thomas, 26, completed an MPhys in Physics at Durham University before moving on to a PhD in Particle Physics, also at Durham. He also became aware of Scott Logic several months ago, and accepted an offer early in 2016.

He said: “As I spent so much time working on learning simulations and programming these for my thesis, it made natural sense to become a computer scientist, and I came across Scott Logic at a STEM careers fair and spoke to one of its volunteers.

“I was keen to stay in the North East and I really like the company; everyone seems pretty relaxed. So far it’s been quite a transition, but very interesting and lots to do, with more flexibility than I expected having come from an academic background.” Thomas is now keen to get involved in our work on big data.

This morning, the trio have been joined by Lithuanian maths graduate Andrius, 32, who came to England in 2008 to gain an MSc in software engineering from the University of York, before completing his PhD in computer science at Newcastle University last year.

Keen reader Andrius, who was referred to Scott Logic by a friend already working here, said: “I’m looking forward to building good systems that we can be proud of. I’m somewhat of a perfectionist and I am most happy when I get a really good outcome in what I’m doing.

“I’m looking forward to going back to coding and using the latest technologies and approaches to do my work.”

The quartet are in good company, as several of our technologists have higher degrees, including several PhDs, helping us remain at the cutting edge of technology.

Recruitment Manager John Wright said: “We’re incredibly proud of our track record in attracting gifted problem solvers to our consultancy, and it’s been great to welcome four such individuals to the team during October alone.

“We hope Michael, Thomas, Paul and Andrius feel at home here, and we’re excited to see them apply their considerable skills to our client projects in due course. In the meantime we’re always keen to hear from anyone in academia who may be considering the move into industry.

“As we’ve demonstrated in the case of Michael and Paul in particular, we’re happy to start the process quite a way before the completion of your studies, so don’t hesitate to contact us for an informal chat.”

For more information on roles we have available at Scott Logic, visit, or to contact John, email

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Academic superheroes?

I’ve had a paper sitting on my desk for a while that I’ve been meaning to read.  It’s an analysis of academic job adverts at Australian universities and asks the question ‘What do academic employers really want from the PhD now?’


I’m just going to copy below a paragraph from the paper which for me seems to capture some of the changes in expectations of the academic job role over the last decade or more.

The academic super-hero conforms to university strategic priorities (including in directing their research focus and undertaking pastoral care for students and colleagues) and is always alert, if not alarmed.  At any moment our hero must be ready to deal with the multiple uncertainties that beset the higher education sector in Australia, all the while collecting business cards for that next round of student placements, soothing hurt feelings and smiling graciously at the crowds of prospective students at Open Day while publishing prodigiously and creating innovative learning opportunities for their students across multiple media. 1

It’s obviously reporting on data from the Australian academic job market but there are probably similarities with the UK and possibly other parts of the world in this global academic market.   I’d be interested to hear what you think.  Is this really reflecting the academic job role?

  1. Academic superheroes? A critical analysis of academic job descriptions. Rachel Pitt and Inger Mewburn. Journal of Higher Education Policy and Management, 2016. Vol. 38, No. 1, 88-101
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Understanding yourself and working more effectively

jugglingIt’s the start of a new academic year.  Some continuing PhD students may not notice the difference as research continues over the summer vacation period, although if you’re involved in teaching you’ll be starting to juggle that alongside your research.  New PhD students will be sitting through various University and School induction sessions, as well as meetings with supervisors, and trying to get their head around all that is expected of them.  It’s a busy time for everyone so what can help you?

The Careers Service has just subscribed to some new tools to support students.  They are a series of career assessments covering topics such as: temperament, personality insight, motivation at work, personal resilience, strengths , giving feedback, stress management, assertiveness, learning styles, and more.  They’re all very simple to complete and you can choose only to complete the exercises that interest you.  They can give you an insight into your strengths, what motivates you, how you like to communicate and interact, and your approach to learning and decision-making.  Awareness of some of these areas can help you to consider how you work best and how to get the best out of your interactions with others.

I’ve copied some fuller descriptions of just a few of the assessments below, but you can view them all by choosing career assessments from the drop down resources tab on MyCareerhub.

Some fuller descriptions…….

Assertiveness: This will help you to understand how you interact with others and which behaviours you rely on in the workplace (assertive, passive or aggressive). At the end you’ll also get tips on how to be more assertive and how to reduce passive and aggressive behaviours.

Personal resilience: Find out how resilient you are and what influences how you experience stress? A person’s resilience is about their ability to bounce back from difficulties, to bend, but not break under extreme stress. You will consider areas such as coping with change; problem solving; self-confidence; and support networks. You’ll get tips and techniques you can use to help you maintain and develop your levels of resilience.

Temperament: This is about the way you like to communicate and interact with others; what type of information you enjoy and trust; your approach to making decisions; and how you like to live your life. You’ll develop an insight into your own temperament which can help you to understand and appreciate how others differ from you; and can be useful when considering how comfortable you may be in different work roles or environments.

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PhD Internships in Intellectual Property and Commercialisation

I’ve just received an e-mail from a colleague about some internships at Edinburgh Research and Innovation (ERI) so I thought I’d share it here.

There is a great opportunity for PhD interns to work at ERI on IP Management and Commercialisation. They are hiring up to 10 students.

Job title: Intellectual Property Management and Commercialisation PhD Intern (Employ.ed for PhDs)

Closing date: Wednesday 21st Sept

They are looking for interns from a range of disciplines covering Business Management, Life Sciences and Physical Sciences.

Areas of particular interest include: synthetic biology, industrial biotechnology, diagnostics, drug discovery tools and processes, medical imaging, therapeutics, regenerative medicine, stem cell biology tools and processes, digital communications, renewable energy systems and storage, microelectronic devices, big data, sensors, new materials, chemical engineering, catalysts, petrochemicals and animal and human health/wellbeing/nutrition.

Link to job details on MyCareerhub

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