Careers Service


Explore postgraduate career options online

Most of the resources on this page address postgraduate career options in the UK. Other countries may differ. If you are looking for careers outside the UK, please see the section at the bottom of the page on postgraduate career options outside the UK.

What do postgraduates do?

Your School should be able to tell you the kinds of work which postgraduates in your programme have previously gone on to do. In addition, here are two UK national resources with information on postgraduate destinations.

  • What do Masters do? Unfortunately, there has been little recent work on Masters destinations at a UK national level (probably because Masters are such a diverse group, so generalisation is not very helpful). This is a link to the latest national report on Masters destinations - from 2007!
  • What do researchers do? Doctoral researchers are better served than Masters, with an extensive range of publications from Vitae on destinations and career pathways for UK researchers, both shortly after graduating and 3-4 years on. However, in many cases, the data used does still date back to 2008.

Masters postgraduates - which types of jobs should you consider?

For UK employers, this very much depends on not only your masters, but also your previous experience.

Recently completed your undergraduate degree, and don't have significant work experience?

You should definitely investigate graduate careers, as well as any which ask for masters. There are far more jobs for graduates than jobs which specifically require a masters degree. Graduate jobs expect you to have an undergraduate degree as a minimum, but employers are generally just as happy with someone with higher qualifications. However, this may not mean you have an automatic advantage, just because you will have a masters qualification (depending on your discipline). Read 'How to market your postgraduate degree to employers' for more information.

Already have significant relevant work experience?

Consider experienced hire jobs or possibly working for yourself. Some of the graduate level resources may be of use, but many describe junior entry points which no longer apply to you.

The which career sector pages may have more appropriate resources for you, and in particular, you should investigate any resources and networks which are provided by any professional associations in your field.

Experienced but trying to change fields?

Even if your previous experience is not directly relevant to your preferred new career, you may find employers are reluctant to treat you as a raw new graduate.
Online research may give you a feel for 'typical' career paths in your chosen field, but as you're not 'typical', you may also find it useful to research careers in person. This could uncover one-off or hybrid jobs for which you might be ideal, but for which an inexperienced new entrant would not be considered. See 'Explore postgraduate career options in person' for more information.

Doctoral researchers - which types of jobs should you consider?

No significant work experience (outside your doctoral degree)?

Roles where a PhD or equivalent is required often draw directly on your research or discipline skills, such as academic careers or specialist research roles. However, outside research/specialist discipline roles, you may find that there are not many entry level roles which specifically ask for a PhD. You could also consider:

  • Graduate entry roles - particularly if you are changing fields. Read 'How to market your postgraduate degree to employers' to avoid the trap of looking 'overqualified'.
  • Direct entry/experienced hire - most employers will not automatically regard your doctoral research as the same as 3 years work experience. However, your skills (including 'soft' skills) may be ideal for some direct hire roles. Learn how to make a persuasive case and convince them that 3 plus years on a PhD makes you an ideal candidate!

Our guide, 'How to find adverts for PhD jobs outside academia' has advice on finding PhD entry schemes and specialist research roles outside academia.

Already have significant relevant work experience?

Consider experienced hire jobs or possibly working for yourself. Some of the graduate level resources may be of use, but many describe junior entry points which no longer apply to you. Even doctoral entry points may be aiming too low for you.

The career sector pages may have more appropriate resources for you, but in addition, you should investigate any resources and networks which are provided by any professional associations in your field.

Experienced but trying to change fields?

Even if your previous experience is not directly relevant to your preferred new career, you may find employers are reluctant to treat you as a raw new graduate. Online research may give you a feel for 'typical' career paths in your chosen field, but as you're not 'typical', you may also find it useful to research careers in person. This could uncover one-off or hybrid jobs for which you might be ideal, but for which an inexperienced new entrant would not be considered.

Online resources for all postgraduates

These resources maybe useful for both masters and PhDs.

  • Which career pages Our guide to a wide range of sectors and types of work. We've done the research to bring you our favourite careers resources, all in one place, to save you time.
  • Self-employment and freelancing We've gathered all our recommendations together in one guide.
  • Prospects A general graduate resource but still useful for postgraduates wanting to explore a wide range of careers.
  • Prospects Planner A free online career matching tool - no guarantee that it can guess your mind, but worth investing 30 minutes if you want to explore the broadest range of options.
  • Prospects job profiles A database of around 400 graduate and postgraduate level types of job, including what qualifications and experience you need to enter these jobs in the UK (other countries may differ). Good for pointing out which UK jobs might particularly value your postgraduate qualification, and which ones need relevant work experience for you to compete effectively. It also has links to sources of job adverts by specific type of job (useful for those with experience).
  • TARGETjobs Another general graduate resource, like Prospects, including a free online career matching tool and sector information.

Online resources for doctoral researchers

There are lots of useful online resources for PhDs considering their career options, many of them giving real life stories of other researchers, their career paths and how they made the transition from a PhD to 'what came next'.

  • An Academic Career Our award-winning website with everything from what do academics really do, how do you become an academic and how do you find academic jobs, to the tricky question of 'Have you got what it takes?' and what could you do right now to improve your chances. It also covers academic career paths outside the UK. Includes text and video clips of University of Manchester academics throughout the site.
  • Career Stories of doctoral researchers A database from Vitae of online career profiles from a wide range of disciplines, both text and video.
  • Beyond the PhD An in depth look at career paths of PhDs from the Arts and Humanities, including text and audio profiles.
  • Pathways career profiles Career paths of panellists at the annual University of Manchester event, 'Pathways: Career Options for Researchers'

Postgraduate career options outside the UK

Postgraduate qualifications are often regarded differently in different countries.

The UK job market is unusual:

  • It is common for a UK employer to accept an undergraduate degree in any subject for a particular job. A non-UK employer may expect a specific undergraduate and postgraduate level qualification for the same type of job outside the UK.
  • UK employers often value work experience as much as, if not more than, higher qualifications. If you have little work experience of any sort, you will probably struggle to find a graduate or postgraduate-level job in the UK (outside academia or research), no matter how many academic awards or prizes you have.

If you aim to work outside the UK, you should check details of the local requirements. The two resources below may help.

Note: If the country you are targeting has little online careers information for graduates or postgraduates, you may be better finding a local contact and researching postgraduate career options in person.

  • Work overseas Information on regions and countries across the world on the Careers Service website.
  • Passport Career An international job and career resource, licensed for use by current University of Manchester students and recent graduates (login required). This gives you access to country profiles for 40 countries across the world, including details of job markets for each country.