How to find ads for PhD jobs outside academia

Want to know where jobs for PhDs are advertised? I’ve been writing a new web resource to support careers for PhDs and thought I’d give you a preview of one of the pages. Look out for the rest, coming to our website soon (including important info on where to find the jobs for PhDs which aren’t advertised).

iStock_000010889596Small Job directionIf you’re looking for adverts for jobs for PhDs, they probably fall into one of four categories:

  • PhD entry-level programmes
  • One-off PhD-specific specialist jobs
  • Experienced hire jobs
  • Graduate jobs

One obvious source of job ads is CareersLink, although we don’t get many jobs which specifically ask for a PhD. However, broaden your search to include experienced hire and graduate jobs (see below to find out why), and there are suddenly lots to choose from.

PhD entry-level programmes

There are a small number of PhD entry programmes which recruit on an annual basis. These include some (but not all):

These programmes are normally advertised once a year and are fiercely contested. As long as you have excellent academic, and normally non-academic, evidence of your achievements, it’s worth considering these programmes.

One-off PhD-specific specialist jobs

“PhD jobs” sites
There have been several attempts over the years to set up non-academic job sites specifically for PhDs. In the main, they have struggled to survive (LinkHigher, PhDjobs.com) – employers probably saw little benefit in advertising on a site only aimed at PhDs when they could also attract experienced candidates or good undergraduates/Masters in the sites they used already.

However, job sites where non-academic posts requiring a PhD are often advertised, include:

  • jobs.ac.uk – although this is the prime UK site for academic jobs, they also advertise jobs outside academia. You can see the non-academic employers currently advertising at their “Browse employers by type” page
  • PhDs.org – mainly US academic jobs but some non-US non-academic posts
  • ecm – Cambridge-based high tech recruitment consultants, including a page for PhDs
  • Findapostdoc.com – UK-based jobs board, mixture of academic and non-academic posts
  • Quantfinancejobs.com – an international jobs board for quantitative finance, with a page for PhDs
  • ResearchGate – jobs board for a scientific researcher community site (they do keep encouraging you to sign up to their network, but you don’t need to do that to access the jobs they advertise)

Targeted job searches
Targeted searches of jobs sites can give you an idea not only of current jobs, but also which organisations might recruit PhDs in your discipline for future roles. Job sites which do a combined search of online ads from agencies, jobs boards and jobs pages on employers’ own websites can be useful, such as:

As an illustration, if you use “PhD, economics” in the keyword search, with the location “UK” in a targeted search in Careerjet this gave 331 jobs last time I tried it, including research associates and lecturers, health economists, management consultants in the oil sector and quantitative finance roles.

However, for less vocational disciplines, such as history, this approach may result in finding only academic posts.

Experienced hire jobs

A job advert may not ask for a PhD, but that doesn’t mean you can’t apply. If you can argue that you have the skills and knowledge required for a job, it’s probably worth a try. If you have professional work experience gained before or during a PhD, you should definitely be looking at experienced hire jobs.

One problem may be where an advert asks for a certain amount of experience. If the recruiter receives applications from candidates with the ideal experience, skills, knowledge and qualifications, you may struggle. However, an advert is often an idealised shopping list; the successful candidate may not satisfy all of the criteria but could still be seen as the best choice.

Sceptical?
We were once asked to advertise a technical job targeted at PhDs, working for a major industrial employer. Subsequently, we found that the same job had been advertised a month earlier – asking for three years experience instead of a PhD. In this case, the skills and knowledge gained in a relevant PhD was seen to be just as good as experience (but only once they’d tried and failed to find that experience).

If you want to find experienced hire (or PhD/graduate) jobs in a wide range of sectors, the Careers Service sector pages are a good starting point for suitable job sites. If you want to stay near Manchester, our North West sector pages may also help.

Graduate jobs

You may feel you’ve gone beyond new graduate jobs, but if you are not directly using the content of your PhD, UK employers may see you as a career changer, with no more work experience than a new graduate – galling as that may be. In particular, if you have no relevant experience, you may very well be paid the same as other first degree graduates, at least initially.

Graduate schemes vs graduate jobs
To distinguish between different types of jobs for graduates, I’ve used “graduate schemes” to refer to one or two year training programmes, often with large employers, often the fast track into management. I’ve used “graduate jobs” to refer to jobs where they want someone of graduate level, but there’s no formal long-term training programme (though jobs are likely to involve some initial training) and the entrants have a specific job to do from day one. There are many, many more “graduate jobs” than “graduate schemes”. You should probably consider both.

Here are some reasons why:

  • You have the skills to compete.
    With graduate schemes and some graduate jobs, employers generally assess your potential and the transferable skills you have developed, rather than expecting you to have lots of relevant work experience. You have the opportunity to “sell” the skills you gain as a natural part of your PhD: being able to use your initiative, self-motivation, analytical and communication skills. Any PhD has the ability to deal with a mass of sometimes conflicting information, identify what is important, construct a cogent argument and communicate and defend that argument – which employer wouldn’t want that?
  • Graduate schemes are not always filled by new graduates.
    Graduate schemes with large employers are generally prestigious, competitive roles, and often the quickest route into a fast-track career. Graduates who are successful in getting on to these schemes sometimes have experience in one or even two jobs before gaining entry to these programmes. Therefore you may not be much older (and possibly be less experienced) than other successful candidates.
  • You may not stay as a “new graduate” for very long.
    Anecdotal evidence suggests that PhDs who enter either graduate schemes or graduate jobs may progress much more quickly than other graduates, once the employer realises what you are capable of achieving. However, it is critical to demonstrate that you are happy to join at the level of a new graduate and that you don’t think your are “above” any other graduates recruited at the same time.
  • This may be the only realistic way of entering your chosen profession or employer without relevant experience.
    Many big name recruiters only have one professional entry point for those without experience. This includes some major consultancies such as Accenture, the UK Civil Service Fast Stream, the NHS Scientific Training Programme and more. Even employers which employ lots of PhDs may expect all graduates and postgraduates to experience their graduate training programme. If you really want to join a big name employer which operates this sort of programme, the only alternative may be to get professional experience with another employer through a direct hire route, and then switch employers once you have experience.

Big employer graduate schemes often recruit once a year, in the early autumn for entry the following autumn. If you miss their early deadlines you may have to wait for another year.

Jobs with smaller employers, or one-off graduate jobs with any employer can occur at any time of year, although there is generally a peak in May and June (for a start date in summer/early autumn) – just in time for the new crop of graduates in June.

Know any more?

If you know of other sources of PhD job ads (particularly outside the UK where my knowledge is a bit more hazy), do let me know and I’ll add them to our new web resource.

All Postgrad-highlighted Postgraduate

Elizabeth View All →

Careers Manager (Postgraduate) at the University of Manchester, UK

2 Comments Leave a comment

    • Thanks Berni

      Euraxess is a good resource for jobs all over Europe for researchers. I didn’t think of it automatically because, unfortunately, you can’t search just for the non-academic jobs (which you can on jobs.ac.uk). However, as long as you’re prepared to wade through all the academic jobs as well, there are a loads of jobs on there. I’ll add it to my list when it goes on our website!

      Cheers
      Elizabeth

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