PhD carEer paths

Professional careers

Several of the research participants took up professional careers in the public, para-public and private sectors after graduating. As you can see in the timelines, some intended this path throughout their degrees, whilst others only made the decision near the end or after graduating.

Academic careers

A slight majority of participants took up careers in the academic sector. Some desired and secured research-teaching positions (see Brookeye, Ginger, Nellie, Jennifer, and OnovaBrookeye). A key challenge for these people was to negotiate collegial relationships whilst learning to combine teaching, research and service/administration.  

Getting a PhD

Often, education before starting a PhD consists of teachers/lecturers deciding what is ‘produced’ and judging the results in terms of grades, ‘the currency of the academy.’ As a result, many new PhD researchers take time to adjust to their greater independence and the requirement to direct their own work with the support of others, as Kadyna describes.

Having a Life

Work or study happen in the context of the rest of our lives. There are many other aspects which enhance, compete with, and detract from both whatever we consider to be our main focus and from having a broader and more fulfilling experience of life.


Here you can read the timelines for all individuals. We have characterized the differences in their career trajectories in three ways: changes in personal lives, work experience and career thinking and how personal lives and work interacted with career thinking.

Internationally, about half of PhD graduates end up in professional careers of different kinds. This section gives you a sense of the diverse kinds of careers and actual work that are possible post-PhD, including careers in academia that are professional. As in the other sections, we suggest resources we hope you will find useful.

Here we explore the experiences of those who held teaching-only, research-only and teaching-research positions. We draw on what individuals in these careers experienced as work issues in order to suggest strategies to negotiate these challenges.

How to explore the PhD experiencies

There are five ways to explore the individuals’ experiences and consider the implications for your own life and career. 

Also, you can share your own path career with us

This section focuses on the different tasks that are important in undertaking and completing a doctorate. Drawing on the challenges doctoral students reported, it offers strategies and resources to help you navigate this period of your career.

All the participants in our study experienced both positive and negative interactions between their work and the rest of their lives. This section explores this interaction and provides resources to help you reflect on and manage these issues.  

We invite you to share with us how it is developing, or how it has been a PhD career. This will allow us to continue improving the tools that we offer to doctoral students and new researchers.



This project overviews the personal and career trajectories of the social scientists and scientists whose lives we followed for 4-7 years. Individuals began participating as either doctoral students or post-PhD researchers, and were in one of two universities in Canada or one of two universities in the UK. By the time the study ended, they were scattered across 37 institutions in a range of sectors (academic, public, para-public and private) in five different countries.



Designed for doctoral and post-PhD researchers 

Also of interest to individuals contemplating a PhD, and those supporting PhDs and post-PhDs


The goal of this site is to provide research-based information and resources for early career social scientists and scientists organized around career thinking and career trajectories.

  • Provide tools to help users a) be better informed about careers, b) set goals and c) be strategic in advancing them

  • Draws on longitudinal data as individuals navigated their PhD and post-PhD careers, so encourages users to focus on the longer term

  • Provide alternate online resources to university-specific ones which often focus on particular roles, e.g., student, supervisor



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Researcher Identity Development (2017). This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License