Making your DPhil Count

Employers value doctoral graduates' deep specialist subject knowledge, excellent research and analytical skills, their capacity for critical thinking, as well as their ability to bring fresh perspectives to problems or the organisation. (The Impact of Doctoral Careers)

Yet you will need to be smart and strategic in how you use your time at Oxford to make your DPhil count. More people are doing PhDs than previously, so you will need more than the PhD to get a job.

We understand that other things in life can get neglected because doing a PhD is an intense, focused experience. We also hear many DPhil students saying they wished they'd thought about their career possibilities much earlier - in their first or second year - when they had more time to explore work options and try new activities.

This page will help you focus some energy on the next stage and prepare for it confidently, at any point in the DPhil journey.

  • Talk to as many people as possible in your fields of interest, and more widely.
  • Question your assumptions about what is available and right for you.
  • Read the rest of this page and our early career researcher blog post warning you against thinking about your career in terms of Plan A (perhaps academia) and Plan B (perhaps you have one, perhaps you don't?)
  • If these resonate, go to our page What's next for You?

 

Building a career following your doctorate relies on knowing what you can offer and articulating this effectively as you build professional relationships and apply for jobs.

With this in mind, we have developed Career Weaver a web-based application to help you identify, take ownership of and clearly articulate:

  • what you love
  • what you are good at
  • why you do it.

Using these tools may reveal skills you need to boost to enhance your career prospects. Keep reading for our tips to boost your employability, then discuss your plans with fellow students, your supervisor (in your annual Training Needs Assessment), others in your department, a Senior Tutor, or a Careers Adviser.

Try to commit to one or two activities that you can manage alongside your studies.

 

If you are keen to progress your career in academia, we suggest investing time to:

Work on your publication plan

Publications remain a major aspect of your academic profile and your employability in many  academic roles. Talk to your supervisor and other senior faculty or postdocs about when and where to start publishing; the advice here differs by field and department.

Get some Teaching Experience or Insights

Teaching experience is helpful for career paths in academia or education more generally, yet can be hard to come by in Oxford, especially in some departments or faculties owing to the college-hosted tutoring system. There are also free courses to give you insight and early training in teaching techniques run by Oxford's Centre for Teaching and Learning. Our advice is to discuss opportunities with your supervisor who will  need to approve your teaching activities in compliance with University policies.

Participate in Knowledge Exchange and Public Engagement

25% of the score given to University departments in the 2021 Research Excellence Framework assessment will be based on demonstrable research impact. Universities wish to hire candidates who are motivated and skilled in this area.

Impact-related activities may be built into a doctoral research project for some students; others can get experience by volunteering to help departmental colleagues with projects or events. Talk to your supervisor or Director of Graduate Studies about opportunities for getting involved in departmental activities, and keep a look out for Division or University-wide public-engagement events such as 'Live Fridays'.

Considering ways to broaden the impact of your own research beyond scholarship is also wise, perhaps using case studies from Oxford as inspiration or guidance from James Cunningham’s (2014) booklet ‘Positioning for Impact on Your Scientific Journey: Reflection and Action Book’ .

Get experience working on funding applications

Anyone planning an academic future needs to show they understand the world of funding. You can do this by listing any contribution you have made to drafting a large grant proposal or by listing your own applications to smaller pots of money, such as travel grants, funding to organise a conference, money towards your fieldwork expenses etc.

Ask your supervisor about opportunities to bid for funding for your research or a conference, or to contribute to larger applications being prepared in your department.

Internships are not just for undergraduates! On the contrary, internships are increasingly used by DPhil and masters students to gain valuable insight into a new sector, widen professional networks, investigate potential research collaborations and generate tangible experience to add to the CV.

A wide range of remote internships are now available. Sign up to the internships mailing list to keep updated on all our programmes.

Finding the right internship for you

Our popular and growing programme of micro-internships (2-5 day placements in 9th week each term) are a top favourite with DPhil students because they are short, local and easily fitted around study commitments or fieldwork. At the same time, many DPhil students find enormous value in a summer internship (4-12 weeks, typically during the Long Vac) because they can apply their research skills, forge strong relationships with the host organisation and even develop joint projects or papers. Our internships are available in a wide range of public sector, voluntary and commercial organisations in Oxford, across the UK and (for the summer programme) internationally. 

All current graduate students are eligible to apply for any of the internships offered through the Careers Service. Summer internships are advertised from the beginning of Hilary term; micro-internships are advertised from 0th week of each term. For more details and to sign up for email alerts, see our Micro-internships and Summer Internships pages.

Top Tip: When applying for a Careers Service internship, be bold about stating what skills and added extras that you can offer (for example, your ability to work independently, or flexibility over dates) because these may make you more attractive to the host organisation than most undergraduates applying for the position. You can get advice on your application from members of the Internship Team during the relevant application period. See the events pages on CareerConnect or contact the team on internships@careers.ox.ac.uk

Doctoral Internship programmes

Some DPhil students who are required to take an internship as part of a funded doctoral study programme. Support and guidance about how to secure a placement and funding are provided by the relevant academic Division. Please ask your supervisor for more details.

Create your own internship

If you want an internship but cannot find a suitable advertised role, you are in a good position to organise your own, bespoke internship. See our guidance on how to do this, and consider booking an appointment with a Careers Adviser or member of the Internship team to help you focus on practical options and a workable strategy.

We give more tips and examples in our regular lunchtime workshops on Securing an Internship as a Researcher (dates and booking details on our programme for research students and staff).

Please be aware that host organisations may wish to make a formal agreement regarding intellectual property for the duration of your internship. If this is the case, you may wish to consider the following:

  • The research project at the University and your work at the employer must not be mingled. You must not take outputs or other “background” technology from the labs in Oxford and use them in the employer’s work or vice versa.
  • You can use your knowledge and expertise, that is, your “know-how.”
  • There must not be any disclosure of information from the University which is not already in the public domain. You cannot talk about your unpublished results or those of others from within the department / across the University. This will also apply vice-versa.
  • In addition, you must not work on your Oxford project during the course of the internship. The terms of such an agreement state that any IP created in the internship period shall belong to the employer. This even applies to IP created in your “own time” away from the company’s premises but during the period of the internship.

Each of the university’s Divisions offers a wide range of training courses covering both academic and professional skills. Most are open to all DPhil students so do check training offers from all divisions and central services.

The Researcher Strategy Consultancy and The Oxford Strategy Challenge (remote version) run by the Careers Service are excellent, hands-on opportunities for DPhils to grow core skills, specifically leadership, communication, creativity and commercial awareness.

As a team, you will work on a genuine strategic question posed by a local client organisation which could be a business, branch of local government, charity or NGO. Some projects have a commercial focus and others a policy focus. Participants rate these very high in comparison to classroom-based training...and enjoy making a practical contribution.

In addition to the general Researcher Strategy Consultancy that involves client organisations from all sectors, we run a specific Researcher Strategy Consultancy - Health and Life Sciences for client organisations in this sector.

 

Career Management for Early Career Academic Researchers: an online course offered periodically for early career researchers of all disciplines.

Imagine PhD: a free online career exploration and planning tool for PhD students and alumni in the humanities and social sciences (though master's and PhDs in all disciplines will find it useful).

MyIDP a free, web-based career-planning tool tailored to meet the needs of PhD students and postdocs in the sciences.

An Academic Career: guidance and tips for exploring whether an academic career is right for you – and how to get started if it is – from the University of Manchester.

The Professor is In: very useful insights into building an academic career in the USA.

Yale University’s Office of Career Strategy gives some helpful pointers towards the many paths open to people with PhDs.

Looking for more?


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