What should I do after doing a PhD in the UK?

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In short, you can pursue many different paths after your PhD in the UK. As an international student, you are allowed to stay in the UK for a good period of time. You can use this work permit option to find employment opportunities in the UK. Data shows that international PhD graduates in the UK pursue a wide variety of industry jobs, start businesses, work in non-faculty positions on campus and pursue further research projects as post-docs.

In this post, I am going to explain in detail the various things you can do after completing a PhD in the UK. If you are planning to pursue a PhD and are willing to dedicate the next 3-4 years of your life to a PhD project in the UK then not only you should be concerned about funding options in the UK but also the post-PhD work opportunities. There are many benefits of doing a PhD in the UK and these benefits go beyond pursuing a PhD in highly recognized institutions around the world.

Average PhD stipend in the United Kingdom (UK)- except London£18,769 per year
Average PhD stipend in London£16,062 per year
Average living cost (including rent) for students in the United Kingdom (UK) (for larger cities e.g., London)£25,932 per year
Average living cost (including rent) for students in the United Kingdom (UK) (for smaller cities e.g., Nottingham)£13,668 per year
Average post-doc salary in the United Kingdom (UK) (work in university after PhD)£33,593 per year
Average post-PhD salary in the United Kingdom (UK) (work in industry after PhD)£28,000 per year
Although the UK PhD stipend is not the highest in the world, still, there are many opportunities after PhD in the UK that can make the PhD journey worthwhile for you.

1. Search for an industry job

Although the end goal of a PhD is still considered a license to work in academia and PhD graduates feel less prepared for the industry. The reason is that you need at least a PhD diploma to be considered for a faculty position in a research university in the UK. However, times are changing and work options for UK PhD recipients are also changing.

As an aspirant who wants to pursue a PhD in the UK, you should seriously think twice about job prospects after graduation. The idea of only pursuing a faculty job after doing a PhD is no longer feasible due to fierce competition in most developed as well as developing countries. More and more PhD students are taking alternative career paths outside of academia.

In my opinion, it is difficult to predict future employment options after PhD in the UK, especially, when basing them on some previous data. However, we can observe the changing trends in post-PhD choices and job market opportunities for PhD graduates. It is quite obvious now that more and more PhD students are opting for an industry career or other paths and leaving their academic dream of tenure track positions.

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Also Read: What’s next after a PhD? The new-age blend of research and industry

Industry jobs are becoming more and more lucrative these days for highly specialized workers. Traditionally, hiring managers were biased toward PhD holders. Yet, industry employers’ attitude toward this specialized workforce is changing with the increasing need for research and development in innovative companies. You only need to to prove them that you are someone who can multitask, inspire like a leader, and work under pressing deadlines. 

Also Read: Launch Your Non-Academic Job Search: 20 Things PhDs Can Do RIGHT NOW

2. Apply for non-faculty jobs at the university

The class of temporary scientists has escalated since the dawn of the 21st century and the challenges during early post-doctoral years are pushing PhD graduates to choose alternative career paths. You should note that a postdoc is not your only career option, even if you love working on campus.

If you want to stay close to the academic culture without bearing all the hardships of an academic career you can explore non-teaching positions after your PhD. These jobs are usually much more stable and have higher-paying salaries than postdocs and temporary lectureship contracts.

Although non-faculty positions are not easier to grab as presumed generally, they may require an equal amount of effort to get hired. However, pursuing non-faculty jobs does not mean you are closing the faculty option entirely. The benefits of securing non-faculty jobs on campus are many including a higher salary, more stable work contracts, and a recognition of work experience.

2. Demonstrate your specialties

Any specialist that is able to offer unique services to the market and does not have an online portfolio is severely limiting his career options. PhD brings out a number of transferable skills to make your name in the consulting arena. However, also note that transferring skills is not easy when transitioning to the corporate environment.

There are two main options you can work on if you intend to demonstrate yourself as an expert in your domain.

  1. A website/blog demonstrating your specialization: A blog provides the opportunity to show your authority on a specific area of study. In fact, it is now common advice for PhD students to establish a website or blog to connect to their intended audience. However, make sure you are adding some value to your readers through your blog. Blogging as a personal hobby and without any effective plan (a) may distract you from your PhD and (b) other important works you can do to polish your profile. You can provide a link to the potential employer to demonstrate your specialization.
  2. A LinkedIn profile: For PhD graduates, LinkedIn networking is the best way to get hired in the industry. A polished LinkedIn profile on this platform can really help you in your job search post-PhD in the UK. You can be active on this platform to connect with prospective hiring managers and other specialists in your field. A good network simply increases your chances of getting hired.
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Also Read: The benefits of blogging for PhD students

4. Apply for post-doctoral opportunities (but consider again)

Although many PhD graduates show that they want to pursue their careers in academia. However, circumstances are already showing a decline in interest in an academic career. Data is showing again and again that most doctoral recipients leave academia after three or four years.

The reasons can be many from precarious employment contracts in academia to low compensation when compared to the workload. Therefore, you should clearly think about the PhD path you want to take. You should be aware of the well-being and mental health issues a research degree and career may place on you.

Having said that, if you are really interested in pursuing a career in research you can still look for postdoctoral opportunities. As a postdoc contract is usually considered normal for any PhD graduate in the UK to pursue a career in academia. Postdocs are intended to provide further research training to young PhD graduates.

Despite the low compensation, a postdoctoral fellowship has marginally higher compensation when compared to a funded PhD stipend in the UK. In addition to this, a postdoc provides you the opportunity to further refine your research skills under the supervision of a senior researcher.

5. Start a high tech business

Many PhD students while working on their PhD projects come up with innovative ideas. You may like to turn your idea into an entrepreneurial endeavor. In such a case, you can start your own business after your PhD. The good news is that the UK graduate work visa is valid for 3 years post-PhD and allows you to start your own business.

Starting a Business after your PhD can help you a lot if your business requires extensive R& D and innovation in products and services. Next, securing funds for a startup is much like securing grants. Having said that, you will also find obvious differences between lab meetings and pitching to investors.

Also Read: How Getting A Ph.D. Prepared Me To Run A Startup

Many say that doing a PhD is like running a startup, however, there are arguments against this too. Just like a startup, you may face a high level of uncertainty or pressure during your PhD. A business, on the other hand, may need much more than a PhD project.

  1. First, A PhD project prioritizes precision and provides ample time for you to overcome any inaccuracies but a business is built on mistakes and rewards the best guesses.
  2. Second, a PhD research is focused on finding the solution to the problem or uncovering a truth, however, a startup is oriented toward providing a product/service that has a breadth of implications and practical uses.
  3. Third, there are differences between managing funds for an academic project and starting a business. Unlike PhD, your funds in a startup are closely related to the initial progress of your idea.
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Also Read: Deep tech: is PhD the new MBA as a gateway to entrepreneurship?

FAQs on what can you do after a PhD in the UK

How can I get a job after PhD in the UK?

If you intend to work in the industry after your PhD in the UK, you can increase your chances of getting hired by (a) first, applying for a graduate work visa after your PhD (valid for 3 years), (b) second, developing your online portfolio and presence to increase your network (c) third, applying for non-faculty jobs on campus, research roles in industry and other diverse opportunities available for PhD graduates in the UK.

Is a PhD useful in the UK?

A PhD is certainly useful if you know what you are trying to accomplish with it. The usefulness of a PhD degree diminishes greatly if you are not clear about where you want to go after graduation. UK job market is in great need of highly specialized workers and researchers. The reason is that employers in the UK want to stay ahead of the competition and a lot of time that happen due to the specialized workforce and ability to do research and development, both crucial for innovation.

How much do you earn after a PhD in the UK?

The average post-PhD salary in the UK industry is £28,000 per year. That said, a post-PhD industry salary may vary depending on the kind of skill set you are bringing to the UK job market. In short, the more demanding the skillset the higher the compensation will be.

Does a PhD guarantee a job in the UK?

PhD is just like any other advanced degree when it comes to industry hiring. An advanced degree in a demanding area of expertise is certainly helpful in convincing the hiring managers that you are the best person for the vacant position. However, you can increase your chances of getting a job after PhD in the UK by (a) getting some industry internship experience and exposure during your PhD years, (b) increasing your network and professional online presence, and (c) contacting related specialists for mentorship opportunities.

Can I settle in the UK after my PhD?

Yes, one among other benefits of doing a PhD in the UK is that you can settle thereafter your PhD. A PhD allows you to stay and look for work opportunities for as long as 3 years. Next, you can find an employer who can sponsor your work visa for 5 more years. After this, you become eligible to apply for indefinite leave to remain in the UK (a permanent residency option).

How do I get a non-academic job with a PhD?

The most effective way to get hired for a non-academic job after PhD is to develop a skill set that is required for such a position. you can significantly increase your chances of getting hired if (a) you do non-academic internships during your PhD, (b) learn to be active on LinkedIn-a go-to platform for non-academic jobs, (c) and have the ability to convince hiring managers that you are the best person for the required position.