What Can I Do With a PhD?: Opening Doors to Rewarding Careers

With continued cutbacks at universities, it is becoming more and more difficult for newly graduated students to secure an academic position at a university. Is a career as an academic the only/best choice? A new report  suggests  a PhD can open many doors and during doctoral studies candidates should be exploring many option and acquiring a range of skills. The League of European Research Universities published an “advice paper” on Good Practice Elements in Doctoral Training. http://www.universityworldnews.com/article.php?story=2014020617152794

Some of the key findings of the report are:
·      PhDs are increasingly drivers of their own professional development; and the training model in which the PhD candidate is heavily dependent on one supervisor is no longer robust.
·      over and over again it demonstrates that some of the most research-intensive universities in Europe are prioritising transferable skills, which are now being built into training programmes for doctoral candidates and, most frequently it seems, as elective course options and often in collaboration with other organisations.
·      the introduction presents 29 such transferable competencies like ‘working in teams’, ‘persisting in achieving long-term goals’ and ‘understanding the working of a specific high-level research-intensive environment’.

As a doctoral supervisor, one of the first things I (Clare) want to know from my students is what do they want to do when they complete their doctorate. I want them to be honest  which is often difficult because the prevailing norm in universities is that doctoral candidates should want to be academics. Some of my former doctoral students did not want to be academics but were nervous to reveal their intentions. If I am going to support my students fully I want to know what they hope the doctoral studies will lead to. I can  report some of my students who did not want to be academics are happily employed in a range of positions:  research officer in a school district, classroom teacher, and psycho-educational consultant. During their doctoral studies I tried ensure they are set-up to get  a particular position (e.g., present at specific types of conferences). A PhD in education should open many doors. It is important for us as supervisors to know there are many doors all of which can lead to a fruitful career.



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