Higher Education: careers outside of academia

Posted in: For PhDs, Sector Insight, Uncategorized

I talk to quite a few people who want to move outside of research but enjoy being in a university environment; if that's you, then a non-academic role in HE may be worth considering.

So what kinds of roles exist? A surprising variety, often broadly categorised as 'administration', though it's worth noting that that term often has a broader application in HE than it would elsewhere, and that as you progress you are likely to be able to contribute to decision-making and strategic planning.  At the University of Bath there are PhD holders in wide of range of departments including Student Services, Registry, Marketing and Corporate Communications, Research and Innovation Services, the Widening Participation Office, support and managerial roles in academic Departments, Faculties and research centres, as well as right here in the Careers Service. Roles and non-academic departments within a university include student support, student records and admissions, quality assurance, policy and governance, estates and facilities, library, finance, research support and business development, HR, training and development, community outreach, engagement and widening participation, Information Technology

... to name a few.

Getting in

Usually it will be a case of applying for individual roles, though Imperial College run a Finance and Management Graduate Training Scheme which incorporates rotations in a variety of departments. If you are currently a member of research staff and are interested in staying at the University in a non-research role, then you could apply as an internal candidate or through the University's redeployment process.

In order to demonstrate your suitability for non-research roles, you need to engage in a little self-reflection and identify the things that are important to you in a future career move, as well as the broad range of skills you have developed as a researcher. Whilst you may not use your research knowledge and technical research skills in non-research roles, many of the generic research and transferable skills you develop - project management, the ability to handle, analyse and interpret data, solve problems, think critically, and work independently and as part of a team, will be invaluable, as will your ability to communicate with and understand academics, students, and other stakeholders, and your understanding of broader issues in HE. As with any career move there will be value in getting involved in activities outside of research, such as Departmental Committees, student support, training and mentoring, organizing conferences and research seminars, Departmental open days, outreach activities, research commercialisation, and potentially part-time administrative roles, as well as voluntary activities and non-university interests. Some roles, such as counselling, will require an additional professional qualification, and others may benefit from some additional training or skills development; check out the training opportunities offered by the Researcher Development Unit Staff Development, and the Students' Union.

If there are roles you think you might be interested in, talk to people already doing them and find out exactly what they do day-to-day and what skills, knowledge and experience would be required follow a similar path. To give you a helping hand, over the next few weeks we'll be posting a series of case studies of former researchers now working in non-research roles across the University. Jobs.ac.uk also have some case studies.





Posted in: For PhDs, Sector Insight, Uncategorized


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