Published: 22 October 2020

An insight into careers for postgraduate researchers

Clare Wunderly, Employer and Engagement Manager at Surrey’s Doctoral College, shares her thoughts on career opportunities for prospective researchers.

As a postgraduate researcher, your career decisions will depend on your interests, values, previous experience and the opportunities available. Here at Surrey, we encourage all our researchers to be open to, and aware of, the breadth of career paths available.

These include roles which are closely connected with academia, such as becoming a research fellow, as well opportunities in research institutes, government agencies or commercial organisations. It is also possible to find fulfilling career options using your knowledge and transferable skills, for example in consultancy or even in starting your own business.

Our PhD graduates have transitioned into several of these career paths, including:

  • Postdoctoral research associates
  • Fellows at national and international universities
  • Lecturers
  • Data analysts
  • Engineers
  • Project managers
  • Consultants
  • Trainee patent attorneys
  • Self-employed professionals.

The type of industries and organisations they go on to work for are equally varied. To name a few, previous graduates have successfully secured posts at:

  • Leading charities 
  • Major broadcasting and telecommunications companies 
  • Internationals banks  
  • World conservation organisations
  • Motor manufacturers involved in Formula One
  • Government agencies
  • Universities
  • Audit and tax advisory services
  • NHS
  • Civil service
  • National Physical Laboratory
  • United Nations agencies.

It would be remiss not to recognise the potential career challenges that may occur due to Covid-19 and the impact that this will have for all.

However, there is evidence varying across disciplines, of a doctoral premium in terms of pay and high rates of career satisfaction, and that the skills that will be in demand in 2022 include many of the higher level skills that can be developed as a result of undertaking a PhD.

Now more than ever before, we need the knowledge and expertise that researchers across all disciplines can bring to help solve the challenges of our ever-changing world, and it is important not to underestimate the contribution that you can make.

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This article is taken from the Autumn 2020 issue of Perspective, the magazine about postgraduate study at the University of Surrey.

Find out more about our postgraduate research opportunities and about support from the Doctoral College.

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