Case studies: the career pathways of doctoral graduates

These case studies are intended for use by a variety of audiences, including employers, policy makers, academic and professional staff in higher education, and prospective and current doctoral students or recent graduates.


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Following the publication of The Right Skills report as part of the British Academy’s Flagship Skills Project, the Academy took forward several strands of work based on the report’s final findings and recommendations. These case studies form part of the work to provide further evidence for the diversity of career pathways taken by doctoral graduates in the arts, humanities and social sciences.

The case studies look at the value of high-level skills developed by doctoral study in these disciplines to the wider economy and society, and how we can better understand the pathways of postgraduate researchers from these disciplines who pursue careers beyond academia or roles which traverse the normal distinctions between academia and other sectors.

Our participants were asked to reflect on their career pathways from their time as doctoral students to the present. In sketching out their pathway from doctoral research onwards, they have picked up on key moments and decisions which formed their particular pathway, as well as how the knowledge, skills and experience of academic research helped them to shape their subsequent careers. They provide an honest assessment of the barriers that can exist for researchers traversing the boundaries between academia and careers beyond academia, as well as offering personal insights into how doctoral students can succeed beyond traditional academic career routes. They also offer advice to employers on what doctoral graduates from the arts humanities and social sciences have to offer and why they should consider recruiting more of them.

The case studies highlight the value of high-level research skills in arts, humanities and social science doctoral study and the opportunities and barriers to utilising this value. They are intended for a variety of audiences including employers, policy makers, academic and professional staff in higher education, and prospective and current doctoral students.

The postgraduate research community is diverse and vibrant. The case studies provided here represent a variety of experiences and voices, but it is hoped that they will encourage a wider range of people to come forward to share their stories and pathways. As this resource evolves, we hope to better represent those voices that are currently underrepresented in the postgraduate research community so that we can showcase the diversity of the community while also showcasing the value of a PhD for many and varied career pathways.

The views expressed in these case studies are given in a personal capacity by the individuals concerned and should not be taken as a reflection of the views of their employers or previous higher education institutions.

Case studies

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