The significant amount of information you learn getting your PhD is not just intended to aid you in your career. Being a doctor of philosophy means that you’re a master in your subject and are able to apply those skills to a wide breadth of life’s aspects. You’ll take those skills and use them to continue to grow as you learn more about topics you once thought you knew everything about.
These skills will transfer to any job you’re looking into obtaining. The coveted skills employers look for are a natural part of what you learn as a PhD or graduate student. When you are able to show potential employers that you have these skills, you’ll be in demand in your field and able to transfer to other career paths over time when you’re ready.
Skills You Pick Up During Your Education
As you go through your education, a lot of what you’re learning seems like basic common sense. In reality, though, you’re picking up a lot of skills that you’ll use in the real world to stand out from the crowd and be a leader in your field. Much of what you consider to be an academic characteristic can be applied to other areas of life in transferable ways, such as:
● Problem-solving - When you spend years analyzing research, defining problems and attempting to figure out what could have caused them, you take those skills with you intrinsically. You’re able to sift through a lot of data and info, form a conclusion, and determine an action plan to find a solution. Yes, that’s a skill that is highly coveted by employers everywhere - and significant others, family members, and friends, too!
● People skills - Working in cooperative research groups or with human participants gives you the opportunity to hone your interpersonal skills. You won’t get very far working with others if you don’t learn how to deal with people on their level, and that can hinder your own progress. As you work with others on your team, you learn how to motivate them, how to handle feedback correctly whether it’s positive or negative, and what works and doesn’t work when it comes to leadership abilities. This is a skill that will serve you well everywhere in life.
● Organizational methods - As a PhD student, you have a significant amount of work on your plate. A lot of these assignments will require managing your time and juggling tasks in a way that requires planning them out from the beginning so that you are able to finish them by the deadline. If you’re not organized and able to handle your time management well, obtaining your PhD is going to be difficult. However, when you master these skills, you’ll take what you learned and conquer any projects and deadlines set before you in your future.
● Managing research - One of the most important parts of your PhD is your thesis and dissertation. Along this path, you’ll be determining the information you need to complete your project based on the data you have in front of you, narrowing it down to what is pertinent to the question you’re attempting to solve. You’ll take that information and synthesize it, design strategies to determine your hypothesis accuracy, and use principles to evaluate your data and come to a conclusion. Transferring this into the real world, you’ll be able to listen to the instructions and information given to you, utilize what you know will work, and adjust as necessary to improve the bottom line or avoid misinformation when it’s presented.
● Self-motivated - No one is standing behind you for years as you attempt to finish your PhD. You have to learn how to manage your own work habits, juggle deadlines, and balance your personal and professional life. There’s no path like a PhD path to teach you how to work well under pressure, stop the procrastination cycle, and do what you know must be done before you’re told to do so. This, in the real world, is called “taking initiative,” and it’s not a common skill, although it is an important one.
● Communication - In your research and teamwork, you learn how to communicate your ideas to others quickly and concisely. Droning on and going the long way loses your audience’s interest, so during your PhD path, you learn how to organize your ideas to their most effective presentation and then communicate those thoughts to your audience, whether in small groups or large conferences. You also learn how to debate without arguing, write at different levels for multiple readers and listeners, and use logic to persuade people to see your conclusion. This is a skill that will come in handy in your personal and work life.
Most PhD holders start their career in academia, but many of them transfer into other job paths at some point in their lives. It’s impressive to be a “scientist,” but that’s not always a marketable job where you live. Unless you’re able to widen your search and move, it’s possible that you’ll want to switch your career to something else where you can use your skills.
You can still be a researcher and obtain work in other industries. Working as a scientist in big industries instead of universities gives you a little more control of your work, but if you want to avoid that path altogether, you’ll be able to find a career in everything from statistics to programming.
As long as you know how to market the skills you already have, your future is as wide open as you want it to be.