In preparation for our survey on career pathways after doctoral research, we tried to find out as much as we could about the current academic job market. One thing that became clear is amount of competition for post-PhD positions across the world. Anecdotal evidence suggests a postdoctoral position in Australia can attract around 145 candidates¹, while in the UK it could be as many as 300².
We know that the number of PhD holders is increasing but still a career in academia remains the most obvious progression, even when we know that pathway can be unpredictable. For example, in the US, 65% of PhD holders continue into postdoc positions, but only 15-20% of them will then go on to tenure-track posts in academia³. It’s more worrying in the UK though, where only 3.5% of people with PhDs in the sciences go on to permanent research roles in UK universities4.
What is the cause of this? Too many people with PhDs? Too few permanent jobs in academia? Not enough people moving into other careers outside academia?
We asked our Twitter followers what needed to be done to open up career options post-PhD. They were clear that options outside academia are the way forward, while fewer PhD places was the least popular option.
This is supported by the findings of a recent report from Vitae – ‘What do research staff do next?’. They found that around three-quarters of research staff leave academia looking for better long-term employment prospects, better job security and permanent contracts5.
However, we know from our other blog posts on this topic that at times pathways outside academia are seen as ‘alternative’ or ‘less-valuable’. So part of the solution could be in preparing PhD candidates for the prospect of a career outside academia, through identifying opportunities and developing the skills required to thrive in other sectors. Take a look at this issue in the Vitae ‘Planning ahead to manage your career‘ which is currently being explored.
Career pathways survey
So we think this issue is incredibly important and we want to understand it better. Along with our partners, jobs.ac.uk, we are conducting a survey on career pathways for people doing or completed a doctoral study. We’re seeking to explore options within and outside academia. And we want to know about is your experience.
Whether you’re currently doing doctoral research, or have completed your PhD we want to hear from you. No matter what stage of your career you are at. By taking this survey, you can help us to understand the variety of careers that exist and inform how jobs.ac.uk can help to support your job seeking and career.