Think and talk about your career in advance

Learning to get a Ph.D. degree will promise you intellectualism but may not promise you wealth. it is somewhat reality for doctoral students in social sciences who earn less than $1,900 per month. The classical theory of human capital investment (study more, happy more in the near future) often doesn’t work for the Ph.D. track. The possibility of entering academia is very low and highly competitive. Hence, some Ph.D. graduates decide to completely or partially opt out of academia—It does not mean they choose the wrong way or betray academia. Indeed, a recent study of HESA’s Destination of Leavers from Higher Education (DLHE) longitudinal data found that 70% of Ph.D. students had left academia three and a half years after their graduation (Cornell, 2020). Ph.D. students also should not feel intimidated that their Ph.D. study is an expensive and unnecessary experience and that industry-based or entrepreneur positions assume that they lack practical skills at workplaces after years of doing research. Many skills gained from Ph.D. study can be transferable and valuable for various careers, especially research and development (R&D) sectors or (business) administrative positions.

What matters is that we must prepare for our future careers in advance, whether we want to enter academia or non-academic jobs like industry. Many Ph.D. students hesitate to think and talk about their career plans because of their hectic and intensive study in the present and fear of being judged or having a stigmatized identity that only Ph.D. graduates who become a professor are winners (Hunter & Devine, 2016; Kruger, 2018). Without long-term goal exploration and preparation, Ph.D. graduates may miss many golden opportunities in today’s modern world market. Discussing early career options with both adviser and an institutional careers consultant could be a good start.



Cornell, B. (2020). PhD students and their careers. London, UK.

Hunter, K. H., & Devine, K. (2016). Doctoral students’ emotional exhaustion and intentions to leave academia. International Journal of doctoral studies, 11(2), 35-61.

Kruger, P. (2018). Why it is not a failure to leave academia. Nature, 560(7716), 133-135.

Written by Mary Dinh ( & YangHyun Kim (

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