Beyond the Tenure Track: 14 Alternative Career Paths for Research Doctoral Students

Beyond the Tenure Track: 14 Alternative Career Paths for Research Doctoral Students

Are you thinking about areas of work beyond academia or already plan to get a doctorate with the intention to work outside of the academy but don’t know exactly what job opportunities exist for someone with a terminal research degree? Many doctoral graduates are finding fulfilling professional career opportunities in industry, government, and nonprofits.

ImaginePhD has defined 14 non-tenure sectors where holders of research doctorates work and have high impact in their fields.
Advocacy roles represent the interest of individuals and groups and exist in government, intra-governmental organizations, non-governmental organizations, and other related institutions. Doctoral students have found roles as coordinators, policy advocates, and Executive Branch secretaries. Additionally, the research and analytical skills of Ph.D.-level practitioners are highly valued in think tanks.

Communications, Public Relations, and Marketing is focused on disseminating information to the public, clients, and other audiences. While communication and business students are excellent fits for this sector, there are also science communication roles for STEM students, market research positions (including positions that use ethnography) for social science students, and humanities students who find their writing and analytical abilities are a great fit.
Consulting provides others, usually organizations, with content-specific expertise to solve problems. If an industry exists, then there are most likely consultants working within that area—including technology, education, business, environmental science, agriculture, and more. Those with doctorates often have subject matter, analytical, and problem-solving knowledge valued by industries and government.
Development opportunities exist for those who excel at fundraising. Grant writing skills are highly sought in the development world, and mid- and senior-level roles in the financial divisions of non-profit, education, and government are available for doctoral graduates.
Diplomacy and Mediation work seeks to resolve disputes between people, organizations, or governments. A law degree is not needed for these roles. Doctoral students have gone on to work as mediation program directors, anti-discrimination investigators, and ombuds.
Entrepreneurship entails developing a new business or non-profit. Project management skills and being able to shift between details and the big picture are incredibly important to entrepreneurs—not to mention the content knowledge to bring a product or service to fruition. Doctoral students have both ability and drive to succeed in this sector.
Higher Education Administration affects you every day at Texas A&M University. While deans and provosts are often hired from faculty ranks, the student affairs, enrollment management, and business affairs divisions of a college or university are becoming increasingly staffed by those holding a Ph.D. or Ed.D and may have never worked on the tenure track.
Human Services focus on fulfilling needs in education and the community, usually working to help solve social problems. While students in the helping professions may be on the licensure track to work in direct therapeutic roles, organizations also need program managers, grant writers, program evaluators, and directors—all positions in which non-licensure doctoral students can excel.
K-12 education has many opportunities in addition to classroom teaching. Doctoral-level practitioners engage in curriculum development, administration, learning technology design, assessment, and policy. And there are teaching opportunities for both those who have teaching certification and those who don’t.
Organizational Management extends beyond normal business processes and an MBA is not a prerequisite in this field. Organizational management entails high-level decision-making based upon data, change management, and organizational development. Those working in organizational management may be internal experts or external consultants; research doctorates in varied disciplines are not out of the ordinary in this sector.
Research and Analysis roles exist outside of tenure track and post-doc positions. Universities have research centers; research positions exist in the government and civilian ranks of the military; research and development take place in private firms. And while there may be many research roles for STEM students, social science and liberal arts students are also highly valued in research roles supporting demographic analysis, user experience, and data science.
Training positions focus on delivering development information outside of the traditional classroom setting. Positions may be as varied as organizational and human resource trainers to senior museum curators to directors of scientific communication to content creators for development platforms.
Translation and Interpretation roles use language skills gained through doctoral study. There are varied opportunities for translation and interpretation services in industry as well as internal cultural consultants for multinational corporations looking to expand into new geographic markets. In a global world, those who can help connect people from different cultures will win the day.
Writing, Publishing, and Editing is a sector concerned with written communication. All doctoral students are subject matter experts, and opportunities exist to demonstrate expertise on the written page to non-academic audiences.

Written by Paul Rainey, Career Advisor for Graduate Students

Posted by Abdul Kader, Abdullah on 4/6/2021 9:19:58 PM

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