How to Turn a Ph.D. into a Nonacademic Career

The article written by Christopher Cornthwaite (April 29, 2021) titled “How to turn a Ph.D. into a nonacademic career” rings so true and reflects my experience after making the decision to leave academia and not knowing what direction to take. Many Ph.D. students today whether in STEM fields or in arts, humanities, and social sciences feel similarly with prospects of getting a tenure track faculty job decreasing steadily, together with long term full-time academic positions declining in colleges. However, experiences like Christopher’s and others demonstrates that successful non-academic career options are possible for Ph.D.’s. The key is to network with others who have chosen a similar path, translate your CV into a resume, rebrand yourself, and find a way to pitch your academic research to a non-academic crowd, whether this be an NGO, government, or private institution.

Another article I cam across on the Nature journal also gives prospective job hunters from academia a toolkit on how to hone their skills and translate them to industry. This article is titled, “Toolkit: How to transition from academia to industry” (May 8, 2019). This article suggests that job seekers can rank their skill sets into three categories: technical academic, technical applicable, and non-technical applicable, and also to think about how to gain additional skills outside of academia. Another big advice is to research the company before submitting your application.

A more recent article published on titled “Non-Academic Careers – Jobs for PhD Graduates” (March 13, 2023) highlights different industries that are looking to hire Ph.D. students either in the STEM fields or arts, humanities and social sciences. For example, Ph.D.’s in Arts and Humanities can work for jobs in publishing industry, digital marketing, or civil services, while Ph.D.’s in biological and medical sciences can benefit from careers in pharmaceuticals, genomics, or clinical care. Ph.D.’s in Business and Finance can find jobs in accountancy, data sciences, or consultancy. The article also provides great advice on how to make the transition to a non-academic career, such as turning your CV into a tailored one to two page long resume reflecting the skills that the employer is seeking.

If you are ready to make the leap to non-academic jobs, career counselors like myself can help translate your skills to the industry. You can make an appointment with me on Handshake.

By Ozzy Girit Heck (Ph.D.)
Ozzy Girit Heck (Ph.D.) Career Success Program Specialist