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Mapping Career Destinations in the Arts and Humanities

Date: 21/05/2013

In 2012, the Arts and Humanities Research Council commissioned a study to map the career destinations of AHRC funded PhD students 5 to 7 years after the completion of their award. This is a repeat of a similar study commissioned by the AHRC in 2006. Working on the basis that a typical PhD takes about 3 years to complete, the sample for this latest study was drawn from students who started their PhDs in 2002, 2003 and 2004. The same methodology was used for the 2006 study, allowing direct comparisons to be drawn from the different studies.

Most people view postgraduate training as a gateway to a career to academia. The AHRC however, are interested to know the extent of which it's former PhD students are working in the private, public and independent sectors. This new study also shows whether there has been any significant change in academic employment since the previous study in 2006.

The breakdown of employment in different sectors has changed remarkably little since the 2006 report. The majority of PhD students are employed in the university sector at 72%, a 3% rise since 2006. The private, public, independent and self-employed sector have also changed very little from the 2006 study.

The majority of participants (72%) are in full-time employment (30+ hours a week) though this has fallen from 78% in the 2006 study. Part-time and self-employment had risen from 10% to 12% and 6% to 8% respectively. The reduction in full time employment figures meant unemployment had risen from 1.5% in 2006 to 5% in 2012.

The study also investigated the perceived value of participants' PhD training. 69% of respondents said that their PhD had been essential to their careers. Only 8% remarked that it had been of little or no importance. The PhD training also grants students with useful skills which help in career development. In general, participants were very positive with 79% saying the award has been ‘very useful’ in their own career development. This scored most highly in the independent and university sectors scoring 93% and 90% respectively.

Respondents were also asked to say which skills and competencies should have been given greater emphasis during the course of their PhD. More support with respect to career management and networking emerges as the main finding. This development is interesting as it was not considered so important in 2006. This suggests that with the increasing competition for jobs, particularly academic jobs, PhD students desire more help on how to best position themselves for employment. The growing importance of contacts and networking in identifying opportunities for strengthening a CV means that the skills students need to build networks, within and beyond academia, are increasingly important.

Further information on AHRC support for Research Careers and Training is available.

Career Paths of AHRC funded PhD Students (PDF, 1.5MB).

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