What Industries Employ PhD Graduates?

What Industries Employ PhD Graduates?

The short answer - all!  A PhD teaches a way of thinking about problems and solutions useful to all organisations.

Another short answer – none… A PhD can encourage graduates to think about problems to every solution. It is hard to hire and work with people like that. Indeed, some might say PhD graduates and researchers are actually trained to find problems rather than solutions. For without problems, there is no grant to write and have funded.

A longer answer…?

The obvious ones are universities and research institutes. Bear in mind that these organisations don’t just employ PhD graduates as academics who research or teach. There are plenty of university roles where PhD graduates are employed in the administration of university activities. Grant Offices are a great place to start. If you’re unsure if research is for you but want a good view of what is out there – I recommend approaching your faculty or universities grant office to do reviewing or compliance checking (just like Monica did1). Of course, there’s also centre, institute and project management roles. Look for those opportunities too. They might be in addition to your current work, but will provide new skills, experiences and grow your network.

I should also mention pharma – of all sizes and types. There are small spin-offs, human as well as veterinary (especially in the companion and farm animal sector). Speaking of animals, zoos and similar also employ PhD graduates.

Many engineering companies have R&D departments. If they lack PhDs when you enquire about hiring one, I’d avoid coming across as best practice. The reality is academic research is different to industrial research even if your academic research was of a more applied nature. But your research skills will be vital to the R&D departments of organisations.


A PhD teaches a way of

thinking about problems and

solutions useful to all organisations


Quality assurance and quality control also employ PhD graduates (well employ people with the skills developed during a PhD). You can find these entities in a range of sectors including engineering, manufacturing, biotech, tech, pharma, education.

High schools need teachers and there are lots of PhDs teaching. You’ll need to retrain – but that’s okay a PhD is a life dedicated to learning and re-learning.

Self-employed – you could do what I did (sort of) and turn your PhD into your career. I did not take the subject of my PhD and turn it into my career. But you could. A PhD should result in you being the expert in something. So, you could consult on that topic, with your PhD as your track record of expertise – talks, publications, presentations etc.

Government departments happily hire PhDs (at all levels – local, state and federal). Some are more conducive than others. The same is also true of consulting firms. My advice would be to aim as big as you can get but realise that you’ll probably have more luck with smaller firms/government departments.

Important to all of this is where the PhD fits in the role and organisation. For some roles it will be front and centre. Others, it will be proof – more like work experience than education. For some organisations the PhD will make you part of the club for others it could be a reason you are not a good fit. So be mindful as you write your letter of application and CV.


Dr Richard Huysmans has helped more than 200 PhD students, early career researchers and established academics build their careers. He has provided strategic advice on partnering with industry, growing a career building new centres and institutes as well as establishing new programs. Richard is driven by the challenge of helping researchers be commercially smart. His clients appreciate his cut-through approach. He knows the sector and how to turn ideas into reality. To find out more, call 0412 606 178, email (Richard.huysmans@ravencg.com.au) or subscribe to the newsletter.

1 Monica Naughtin‘s recommendation in Dr Richard Huysmans LinkedIn profile

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