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About the Project

Beyond the PhD was developed as a career resource for arts and humanities PhD researchers by the Centre for Career Management Studies (CCMS). In 2009 Beyond the PhD was commended by the Association of Graduate Careers Advisory Services (AGCAS) and shortlisted as the Times Higher Education ICT Initiative of the Year. The project ended in 2010 but we hope the resources offered by Beyond the PhD will continue to be of value to anyone considering their options after a PhD, particularly those asking ‘what next’ after the PhD.

Aims and Ethos of Beyond the PhD

Finishing an arts and humanities PhD can be a double-edged experience. As the summit comes into view, the thought of reaching it is exhilarating, but it can also be unnerving when we don't know what the world beyond it will look like for us.

The familiar task of thesis writing will be replaced by something else – but exactly what isn't always clear. Will it be postdoctoral research, university teaching, or a job outside academia? If you are ready to explore the possibilities of life after a PhD, or just want some motivation, we hope that you will find Beyond the PhD a useful starting point.

Beyond the PhD was conceived and developed by people with arts and humanities PhDs in collaboration with careers professionals. It brings together a desire to make visible what happens to postgraduate researchers after they graduate and an ambition to avoid easy prescriptions of 'getting your perfect job'.

We are interested in the emotions, the stories and the unexpected events, which lead to unforeseen outcomes. How do people reach the decision to pursue an academic career or to explore other options? How do those with a clear sense of direction get to where they want to be? What is the impact on an individual's career direction when they don't get shortlisted for the first few jobs they apply for? How long do people cleave to long-held career aspirations in the face of pragmatic pressures like paying the bills? When people decide to take a job outside academia, how do they reconcile that with the academic identity that has been under construction during the years of postgraduate study?

What Beyond the PhD offers is a rare opportunity to listen in on the experiences of a range of different people from different backgrounds, ages and stages of life who have been through the PhD in an arts and humanities discipline and made the transition into a variety of work beyond it. Their candid personal reflections on facing challenges, responding to opportunities and reaching decisions are captured in segments of audio-interview.

Interviewees describe their PhD experience; the period of transition from their final year of writing-up to their subsequent employment; the contexts in which they currently work, and how the PhD has equipped them for their role. As well as responding to specific questions about, for example, the practical career-building activities they have engaged in, interviewees also reflect on more philosophical questions surrounding personal identity in relation to both work and the PhD.

We anticipate that you will recognise yourself and your own situation in some of the recollections you listen to, but you shouldn't expect to find an interviewee with a profile that exactly fits your own – the point of this site is rather that you explore the material with an open mind and garner some insights into other people's experiences, which might in turn throw light on your own.

In addition to autobiographical material, this site also features articles that offer personal perspectives on issues that are relevant to PhD researchers and their career development. How, for example, do we 'narrate' our past histories and future possible careers? How can we interpret the statistical data pertaining to the career destinations of arts and humanities PhDs? Do employers outside academia perceive PhD researchers in the arts and humanities as being over-educated but under-qualified? And, if so, how can this perception be challenged? How has the PhD as a course of study changed in recent years? And how has this affected its cultural and economic value?

The site also features a collection of video clips of small group discussions about similar issues from a professional perspective. In the careers advisers discussion, the topics covered in the clips include: the nature of career guidance and what PhD researchers might expect to gain from it; the range of work that arts and humanities postgraduates are drawn into; how the PhD thesis can be reframed, and the postgraduate experience translated, in applications for non-academic jobs.

In a further group discussion between academic skills trainers from different higher education institutions, the topics covered include: the government agenda for skills training for postgraduates in the arts and humanities and how this is being realised in universities; the particular limits and challenges of skills training in arts and humanities disciplines; the role of supervisors in equipping postgraduates for academic careers, and the growing professionalisation of academia.

Beyond the PhD is a good place to explore possible career paths within and outside academia, there are no prescribed career pathways here; rather we hope to provide different perspectives and inspire you to create your own… life beyond the PhD.