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Agency and Networking

in Researcher Career Development

ERASMUS + Researcher Identity Development


Getting a PhD

Post-phd careers

Many PhD researchers in our study did not think about careers until near the end of their degrees, e.g. here Hannah and Epsilon talk about their lack of career planning: 


When I was doing my PhD …we weren’t prepared for any [career thinking] …[the PhD] was a means in itself …the thing to do… The actual career options, the development of you as a flexible, kind of pragmatic person just wasn’t [there] …It was all around the viva and the PhD and then left to you really to kind of find your own way …When I’m talking to others now, I try and [ask] …what do you do with it?  How do you make it work for you in different ways…? So, hopefully I’ll have provided one kind of case study for people to see what options there might be, rather than just the traditional academic route. [Hannah]


I won’t [look] seriously at future career paths until I…get the results for the last project—‘cause at that point [I’ll] have everything for my thesis and I’ll be starting to wrap up and …I should be looking for what’s the next step after that.  Right now I’m still sort of in my own little world working on the one last project... [Epsilon]

Mother and Child
Portrait of a Man

Careers and organizations

Under half of all PhD graduates enter the academy, with most finding work in the public sector. While what is considered public varies by country, it generally includes education, healthcare, and infrastructure for transportation, telecommunications, power and water supply systems. Many PhD graduates go into the para-public (non-profit) sector, which includes charities; local, regional and national foundations; social advocacy groups; and professional and trade organizations. Some choose the private (for profit) sector. Such organizations range in size from one person working locally to multi-nationals, which may pick and choose the regulatory environment that suits them best.


Regardless of the sector in which you are seeking a position or working, you will find yourself in some kind of institution or organization. 


  • If you imagine yourself in a professional career, it can be helpful to understand the differences in organizational purposes and structures, resources and expectations that will influence day-to-day work.  

  • If you imagine yourself staying in the academy, then it is useful to understand the variation between different kinds of institution within and beyond your current country of residence. The League of European Research Universities has developed Academic career maps for countries in Europe, which maps the differences in career structures across countries; e.g., how positions are funded at each career stage and how a researcher may progress from one level to the next. Another helpful resource is the European University Institute's Academic Careers Observatory. The site provides information about academic careers and research opportunities in the social sciences and humanities internationally. 


Careers resources

It is likely that you already have your own favourite career websites; nevertheless, the list below may include some new sites for you to explore. 


Other materials

Explore the other themes


Researcher Identity Development (2020).

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Improving the careers and well-being of researchers

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