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in Researcher Career Development

ERASMUS + Researcher Identity Development

Career Paths

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SA, a UK national, had earned BSc and Master’s degrees prior to beginning the PhD in 2009 when she was 24. She chose doctoral work in order to advance in the field and pursue intellectual interests. SA joined this project in 2011, while focusing on the data collection and analysis phase of her research. She was part of a lab group, and taught master’s and undergraduate students. SA completed the PhD at 26 years old, and then began working as a post-doctoral researcher at a private company. She envisioned herself in a research position, but also wanted to settle down with her partner, and thus ended up expanding her job search beyond academia.

What struck us about SA’s story was: 

  • Changes in thinking over time about settling down and establishing a home base with partner (personal)

  • Choosing thesis by publication to advance initial goal of work in academia, and managing projects and publications as post-doctoral researcher in industry (work experience)

  • Change in career goals following the PhD, deciding that industry rather than academia would align with her life goals (career thinking) 

Monika, single, English as another language, had worked professionally for many years before doing her PhD in North America. She lived a two-hour commute from the university and continued to work part-time during the degree for financial reasons. She joined the Canadian study in 2006 in her third year of her PhD. She imagined a local research-teaching position given she was caring for her elderly parents, and completed the degree when she was 49.

What struck us about Monika’s story was

  • Ongoing stress and parental care (personal)

  • Issues with supervision feedback and working to deal with financial issues during the degree (work experience)

  • Not having publications so not competitive and teaching part-time the only academic work she could get (career thinking)

Julius, a North American in his late twenties, had completed a master’s degree and worked in engineering and for the federal government before beginning the PhD. Julius decided to pursue doctoral work in order to advance in his field, and was in the third year of his PhD at a North American university when he joined this study. Julius was married with three children, and following the PhD, left academia to set up consulting company.

What struck us about Julius’s story was:

  • Relocation; work-life balance (personal) 

  • Developing his company alongside academic work (work experience)

  • Developing his company; importance of networking and marketing (career thinking)

Elizabeth

What struck us about Elizabeth’s story was

  • How health issues and family considerations shaped her choices (personal)

  • Writing and intellectual contribution, and balancing job hunting, part-time and consultancy work (work experience)

  • Employability and seeking the work she desired (career thinking)

Elizabeth worked in a skilled service role before returning to part-time study for her first degree and then commenced a full-time PhD in a different subject area. She joined the UK study whilst in the third year of her doctorate; she graduated the following year when age 45. Elizabeth envisaged a career in a research role with no teaching commitments. After graduation she worked in part-time and consultancy roles as she sought a permanent appointment. She had two teenage children with her long-term partner and was concerned for her ageing parents. During the study she was diagnosed with a chronic illness and defined herself as living with disability

Claude, an international student in her mid-twenties, moved to Canada for her undergraduate degree and then PhD. She chose to undertake doctoral study based on intellectual interest, and a desire to increase her knowledge of the field. Prior to beginning the PhD in 2008, she taught for one year at the college level. Claude joined this study in 2010, and had completed her comprehensives and dissertation proposal. When Claude began the PhD, she intended to work in academia, but due to personal circumstances and dissatisfaction with the academic culture, decided to return home following the PhD and pursue other interests

What struck us about Claude’s story was:

  • Her mother’s death and relocation to home country (personal)

  • Issues with collaboration and competition between labs (work experience)

  • Move away from interest in academia to pursuing farming and gardening interests (career thinking)

1319, a North American, was working part-time at a multi-national corporation in North America when he decided to begin the PhD. Before the doctoral program, he had achieved Bachelors and Master’s degrees, and decided to pursue a PhD in order to increase his knowledge of the field. He was writing his thesis from home in North America while taking care of his family when he joined this study, having returned after several years in the UK. During the thesis writing phase, he quit his job to focus on finishing the PhD, and began a start-up to earn money to fund his studies and support his family. Following the PhD, which he completed at age 51, 1319 took a one-year teaching and research position at a university in North America, and was striving for a career in academia.

What struck us about 1319’s story was: 

  • Commitment to family that impeded work on thesis, writing up thesis from North America (personal)

  • Perceived supervisors as distant and disinterested in his PhD topic, experience of revision and resubmission of thesis (work experience)

  • Desire to work in academia contrasted with practical concerns about finances that led to seeking work in industry (career thinking) 

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Researcher Identity Development (2020).

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