The majority of Ph.D. candidates initially aim for a career as a professor. Despite this, between 60 and 75 percent of Ph.D. graduates find rewarding and stimulating work that is rewarding outside of academia. One of the largest initial barriers to exploring options outside of academia is a psychological one. Given the familiarity with and emphasis on the academic route, students struggle to admit to themselves and others that they may be exploring a different path.
This can be compounded by fears of making the wrong choice, concerns about disappointing family and colleagues, uncertainty about other options, lack of familiarity with job search protocols and uncertainty about where skills may fit. For some, choosing to explore non-academic careers and pursuing an alternative path can seem daunting. For others, this was always their intended goal. Whatever prompts this choice, those who make an informed decision to leave academia tend to find the move both satisfying and liberating.
The resources and links in this section discuss the issues and describe how to identify career alternatives outside of academia. Inspiring profiles of those who have successfully made the transition are included.
The Challenges and Rewards of Leaving Academia
Bios and Career Profiles
Read inspiring stories from those who have leveraged their advanced degrees for satisfying careers outside of academia.
Selected interviews with PhD Graduates who transitioned happily into careers outside academia from the series “From PhD to Life” by Jennifer Polk - University Affairs.
updated July 2023