Careers with a PhD

The PhD is a professional and professionalizing experience that builds the talent, knowledge and skills of early stage researchers. Developing your career is part of the process: from the start of the thesis and continuously throughout your professional life.

Traditionally, the PhD led most people to an academic career in the university: a thesis, followed by a few years of research and teaching in the scientific community, before finding a permanent post as a university professor.

The situation has changed dramatically over the last couple of decades. In Switzerland alone, over 4,000 people graduate with a PhD every year (FSO 2018). Worldwide, about 2.8 million PhDs are currently in process. The academic career is just one option among many: whatever their disciplinary background, the vast majority of PhDs will go on to do other things, whether directly after the thesis, or after a postdoc experience.

So what does this mean for you as a doctoral candidate or postdoc?

It means reflecting and taking action on your professional development right from the start of the thesis, and remaining open to change as your career develops. While a few people know exactly what they want to do after the doctorate (and even fewer go on to do exactly what they planned!), most will find that their goals shift and evolve over time. The most important is to start gathering information and working on the experience and skills you’re most interested in.

And it’s never too late to start! Even if you began a postdoc because the path seemed the only one, the options are still open, and there’s still time to make an active decision about the direction you want to take and to prepare your next steps.

Our Career Café happens once a month: over a coffee and a croissant, we talk about what PhDs do and how they get there. Sign up here.

On these pages, you’ll find information and resources to help you “give fate a nudge” by making those decisions and preparing actively for the next stage of your career.

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