Advice for PhD students

I don't know what I want to do!
Staying in academia
Moving out of academia
Job vacancy sites
Jobs and postdoctoral positions outside the UK, Europe and North America
UK academic and academic focused job sites
Jobs and postdoctoral positions in Europe
Jobs and postdoctoral positions in North America

A successful career strategy combines ‘self-awareness’ with ‘opportunity-awareness'. At the basic level it addresses:

  • The extent to which you have relevant skills and experience;
  • Your values, attributes and motivations;
  • The financial, practical or personal considerations that influence your decisions;
  • Your ‘fit’ with the likely work environment;
  • The timescales involved - closing dates; your availability for interviews; possible start dates and related matters.

The Career and Employability Service can help you find out more about career options that you’re considering; identify occupations to match your skills and attributes or help you to generate and/or research potential career paths.

To discuss your options further you can make an appointment with a careers consultant. We can meet with you face-to-face if you can visit one of the campuses. If not, we can offer help by email , Skype or telephone.

Our advice, as always, will be individual, impartial and confidential and can help you to make a balanced decision about your future career goals.

Note - we are Vitae members

Massey University is an organisational member of Vitae, the global leader in the professional development of researchers. Vitae works with institutions striving for excellence in development and career support for research staff and students.

The Vitae website has a wealth of resources and advice tailored specifically to you as a researcher, whether your ambition is to stay within or move outside academia. All our staff and students get full access to the Vitae website as part of our subscription as long as you are registered with your organisational email address.

Vitae is managed by CRAC, a not-for-profit organisation with 45 years’ experience in enhancing the skills and careers of researchers.

Register now using your institutional email address. 

Vitae’s most popular resources for researchers include CV examples, advice on pursuing an academic career, the Vitae Researcher Development Framework (of knowledge and skills) and completing a doctorate.

I don't know what I want to do!

Making a decision about which role to pursue can seem daunting and overwhelming. However, a good place to start is to undertake a self-analysis exercise. This is not as scary or time-consuming as it might sound, and it simply involves looking at factors that include your skills; personality; interests; values and motivations. For tools to help with this, some of which will generate career ideas for you based on information you supply on these factors, see the Career and Employability Service’s resources in 'get started'.

Events such as career expos and employer presentations can also be a great way of exploring your options. We use Massey CareerHub to publicise events such as these that are taking place around the country.

Staying in academia

To many, a PhD is seen as a stepping stone to an academic career. However, even though it might appear to be the obvious route to take it should be considered in the same way as any other career option. For example, think about what your motivations are towards it. Those considering a career in academia are likely to share most of the following characteristics:

  • An interest in working in an academic environment and in having their subject discipline as the major focus of their role.
  • Intellectual stimulus as a major - or even the primary - motivator, certainly not relative salary and earning potential.

Your tutors and supervisors are worth talking with for an insight into the pros and cons of the role. However, we’d also recommend that you access Careers NZ - Tertiary Lecturer and Prospects (UK) - Your PhD: What next?

Moving out of academia

You have a wide range of career options. Some will be related to your subject knowledge and many will require you to evidence and apply your transferable skills. Your options include:

  • Self-employment
  • Working for central or local government
  • Employment with Crown Research Institutes
  • Other research and development roles
  • The private sector

There is no requirement for you to seek work that’s directly related to what you have studied. As with all job choices and applications it will be crucial to match what you can offer with what the role and organisation requires. Our 'Get started' resources should be useful. So too should be the sectoral information that you’ll find on the Careers NZ site.

Remember the value of making contacts; networking and informational interviewing. it’s worth stressing that most people pursue a 'career' that has evolved from decisions; choices and events. However, those happiest in their role are likely to be those who have put thought into issues such as the areas that best utilise their skills and experience. In addition, they are likely to have considered their preferences for particular sectors; work environments and size of organisation and have explored trends in the sectors that interest them.

Job vacancy sites

Once you’ve decided on your chosen career - perhaps by using the resources found under 'Get started' - you need to start finding jobs. Doing so is one way of putting your research skills into practice!

The links below are to some sources of advertised. Add to these vacancies advertised in the press - journals, magazines and career publications and publicised through recruitment agencies, professional bodies and organisations’ own websites:

Jobs and postdoctoral positions outside the UK, Europe and North America

UK academic and academic focused job sites

Jobs and postdoctoral positions in Europe

Jobs and postdoctoral positions in North America

  • - meta-collection of internet resources for the academic job hunter. Includes sections on UK, Canada and Australia.
  • After College - career network for college students and recent graduates
  • Grad Schools and PhD Programs – resources; links and tips for getting into, and life after, graduate school
  • Foreign Affairs and International Trade Canada - features many useful links valuable for a broad range of disciplines.
  • Lindemann Trust Fellowship - for graduates of exceptional promise in pure and applied science to undertake postdoctoral research in the USA for one year.
  • - comprehensive portal for PhDs in the sciences. Includes job vacancies, salary indicators and much more.
  • Post Doc Jobs - searchable vacancy list, information about scholarships and fellowships.

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