A postgraduate qualification can help you stand out in a crowded field – highlighting your depth of knowledge and interest in a specific area of study. If you are looking for a role in research, a think-tank, NGO or similar organisations a postgraduate qualification in a relevant field is often an application requirement. Advanced postgraduate qualifications (PhD) are essential for those interested in pursuing a career in academia.

Interested in a career in academia?

It’s difficult to gain a permanent academic job immediately. The traditional entry point for PhD graduates is as a research assistant or research fellow. Short-term contracts are usually offered, lasting from three months to three years. It’s not uncommon for a research assistant or fellow to spend years working on temporary contracts before being offered a permanent role.

Universities typically advertise these vacancies on their websites. If you have a clear idea about where you want to work, contact the institution directly. Another source of opportunities is Jobs.ac.uk.

Having previous teaching experience will help your application, and universities often make teaching opportunities available to PhD students. Getting your work and name well-known is an excellent step into an academic career, so try to get articles published in high-quality journals and actively engage with other academics through collaborations and conferences.

Successful academics must possess skills in leadership, management, networking, presentation, resilience and time management.

When applying for this type of job, it’s important that your CV showcases your academic experience. You must also provide clear evidence of your research and a plan of how you wish to develop this in the future. Academic CVs are focused on educational achievements and are used when applying for lecturing or research-based roles. Your academic achievements, research interests and specialist skills should be placed on the first page.

Include details of your specialist skills, research outcomes, potential future developments, and any funding or grants that you’ve received, conferences that you’ve attended, professional memberships that you’ve gained and publications that you’ve been featured in. Click here for some examples of academic CVs. If you’re a postgraduate but not looking for an academic career, your CV should follow an alternative layout.

Academics enter the university sector from a wide variety of fields, often following unique pathways. Two excellent sources of career advice for those entering (or leaving) academia are:

  • Career Stories – a searchable database of career stories and links to collections of career profiles and histories from Vitae, a national organisation who support the development of doctoral researchers and research staff in universities.
  • Career advice and opportunities – jobs, advice and resources from jobs.ac.uk, the main UK academic recruitment website.

 Other career paths for post-graduates

Most employers do not intentionally seek out employees with a Master’s qualification, so it is your responsibility to articulate the worth of your qualification. As well as the intellectual rewards of postgraduate education, you have matured as a person; developing excellent life skills like time management, along with the ability to argue a highly complex points and critical thinking. These are portable to a variety of different situations; your skills will provide you with an advantage in a competitive employment market and give you professional credibility.