Non-Academic Careers for Academics

Have you ever thought about a career outside of academia? Maybe you’re in a field where it’s relatively common to do so. But even if you’re not, the academic job market has been so tight for the last few years that many doctoral students are looking for other types of employment in case their plan to get a tenure track job doesn’t work out. For many people, this is not only a scary choice, but a baffling one: what are these jobs, where do you look for them, and how do you get one?

University Management/Upper-Level Staff

A number of people I know opted to go straight into university staff positions after they received their PhDs. PhDs are generally offered positions as the head of non-academic offices, which come with a salary that is likely higher than a junior faculty salary. While many new PhDs complete one or even two post-doctoral positions, which require them to uproot themselves and their families more than once, academic staff jobs are stable from the word go, and staff jobs provide room for career growth and the ability to move to different areas of the university in a way that faculty positions generally don’t.

Non-University Educator

Many private high schools hire recent doctoral grads, even if you don’t have teacher’s certification. The school benefits because it sounds prestigious when they say their high school faculty have doctoral degrees. Your benefits? Depending on the school, salaries can more than double that of most junior faculty salaries, a set schedule, excellent resources for teaching, and private schools often offer their faculty amazing perks. One of my friends took a job at a private Catholic school after receiving her PhD. Her school pays all expenses for her and her husband to spend Christmas in Rome, any year they want to. That’s a pretty great perk, if you ask me. Finally, as a high school teacher, if you don’t want to spend your summers scrambling to do research and write in order to publish before the next semester begins, private high schools may be for you!

Related: Finished your PhD and looking for a job? Check out this post to jump-start your career!


Tutors with PhDs can earn amazing hourly rates. The students are generally high school scholars and parents will often pay you to teach not only your subject but related subjects. With a PhD in history, I can tutor History, English Literature, Geography, Reading, and Writing, among other topics. A flexible schedule that you get to create makes tutoring a great option for recent PhDs.

Educational Material Companies

Companies that create educational materials like textbooks, study tools, standardized tests, etc. are good places to look for jobs outside of academia. These companies want to hire people who understand the trends in certain fields, who have connections at universities, and who have strong editing skills. That’s you! The stability and “9 to 5” nature of these jobs is what draws many doctoral grads.

Where do you find these jobs? For tutoring, print a few good-looking flyers and post them in local coffee shops. There are tutoring companies that will hire you, but they will take a cut of your salary and are somewhat in control of your clients and your schedule. For the other jobs, most organizations have positions posted on their websites; you can also call to inquire about openings. But one of the best ways to find a job outside of academia is to get to know working professionals outside of academia. Find a networking group or business people’s social group and start chatting. You’ll find a job outside of academia in no time.

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