The Skills and Knowledge of a Doctor

In PGR Myths Debunked we discussed one of the harmful narratives that suggests that if you don’t get a lecturing job, a PhD is pointless. In fact, most successful PhD candidates don’t go on to become academics employed in universities.

This isn’t bad news. There are many jobs and careers, in which you can use the skills you have acquired during your research and be fulfilled and happy. Even if you want to spend your time in research, there are organisations other than universities who employ researchers.

Rather than focusing on one narrow path to the only career you will allow yourself to think about, it can help instead to consider the types of work that will allow you to feel fulfilled, useful and happy. 

A good place to start is by thinking about the skills and knowledge you will have at the end of your research degree and why they might be appealing to employers.

Be aware that you may, without realising it, discount some of your skills because everyone you know shares these abilities with you. That doesn’t mean these skills aren’t valuable or rare. The vast majority of the population does not complete a research degree, so comparing yourself with your peers is probably a false test.

Be willing to list all of the relevant skills you have – even if you think they are skills that are common. They might still be useful to employers.

Think about

  1. The skills you have acquired during your studies – what can you do now, that you couldn’t when you started? What are you better at? 
  2. The skills you demonstrated just to be able to complete this project – how did you manage to stay motivated? How did you persuade participants to take part? How did you get work published? Did you have to manage competing priorities?
  3. What specialist knowledge do you have? – What will your original contribution to knowledge be? What did you have to know to be able to make that contribution?
  4. How do you approach complex problems now? – What kinds of problems have you had to solve? How did you manage to solve them? How did you work with information and evidence to produce these solutions?

List as many things as you can. It may also help to ask others what skills they believe you have, to get a different perspective.

Then try to think of yourself as a perspective employer and recognise how skilled and talented you must be to have studied to this level.

Video Resources

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Supervisors Discuss the Skills that PGR Students have Developed