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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?

Tip:

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.





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