PhDs in STEM: the career after- Part 1
My PhD applications journey lasted for almost six months until I landed three offers and chose the most suitable topic and supervisor. I was determined to have an academic career, so I studied well the funded PhD topics available at that time and the supervisors’ profiles.
Why did I do that?
I did the latter as my MEng advanced research project supervisor advised me. PhD supervisors are academics with heavy schedules in teaching, administrative and research responsibilities. Imagine an academic having a team of, e.g. three or five PhD candidates. How much time and energy would he or she have to provide to your project? Note, that I focused on accessing a funded PhD programme in the UK, not in multiple countries and continents.
How was my PhD experience?
I enjoyed my PhD as I would often meet my supervisor, had a dedicated lab to our group with excellent management of resources and equipment and a great internal network of peripheral testing labs; overall, a great experience.
But as my third year started, I realised I did not invest as much in my professional development to follow an academic career as initially planned.
Up to that point, I generated adequate processed research outputs to be published in research articles. I attended conferences and planned to do so for a couple of more. Did conferences provide sufficient networking or exposure to enhance my academic career post- PhD? At that time, I did not have access to what national and continental data showed about PhD holders employment. According to the European Science Foundation (ESF), 20- 30% of PhDs in Europe, stay in academia as post-docs, with 10% of the them achieving a long-term academic position. So, the chances are that most PhDs would work in non-academic jobs.
How ready is a PhD holder to pursue an academic or a non-academic career?
How do the societal, business needs and changes reflect on the employability and tools for individuals’ long-term goals and matching those goals after an intensive research degree?
In the second part of this article series, we will discuss the gaps met in PhD programmes to train and allow PhD candidates to develop a personalised academic or non- academic career plan after their graduation.