PhDs & Postdocs

What can I do with a PhD?

A lot, depending on what you want! Although many PhDs enter academic careers, many more have pursued a range of fulfilling and meaningful careers beyond academia. Whether you’re preparing for a faculty position or looking to find what other career options are out there, it’s important to spend time to understand yourself, your values, and what skills and interests you have before diving into a job search. After all, you want to make sure that whatever job or career you pursue will be one that you find satisfying, rewarding, and challenging!

Having the skills and confidence to navigate all aspects of your job search successfully is essential for your career development. Career Services is here to support you throughout this process, from helping you present yourself well both on paper and in person to potential employers to equipping you with the knowledge and strategies to help you land your job offer. We advise PhD students and postdocs to follow a 4-step career exploration and planning process to help them find a meaningful career. Click on the steps below to get started.


Reflect and Explore Options

Taking time to reflect on and understand your work values, skills, and interests allows you to pursue a career that is meaningful, challenging, and rewarding before you launch into a job search. This provides a solid foundation for your next steps

Network and Gather Information

Networking is simply talking and building relationships with professionals in careers that interest you to help you learn what it’s like to work in a particular role, field, or industry. Think of it as talking with people to research and gather information about careers.

Professionalize and Gain Experience

Use your time as a PhD student or postdoc at Penn to pursue activities related to your career interests and develop yourself professionally. These opportunities will allow you to demonstrate the skills, experience, and professionalism for a successful job search.

Take Action and Make Decisions

Once you’ve spent time reflecting, exploring, networking, and gaining experience to prepare for your future career, you’ll be ready to take action and make decisions about your post-PhD professional life. Career Services is here to support you throughout this process, and so feel free to reach out to us at any time with your career-related questions.

On the academic job market?

Career Services can give you advice on all your application materials (see our resources here) and perspectives on how to tailor your application to specific kinds of academic institutions, and help you to speak about your research and teaching in interviews. Once you have received a job offer, we are also happy to guide you through negotiations.

Doctoral Career Development Camp 2023

In partnership with the Grad Center, Career Services is hosting a multi-week series of programs to cultivate the professional development of doctoral students at Penn. Through interactive workshops, panels, and information sessions, explore a wide range of industries and disciplines! Click here for more details.

Research as an Aspiring Data Scientist

Eric Choi, COL ’24, Hoover, Alabama

This summer, I worked at a neuroscience research lab under the guidance of Professor Martha Farah. Specifically, I looked through the UK Biobank, a massive database filled with patient information, and tried to find …

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Robotics Research for Biomechanical Applications

Sharon Zheng, SEAS ’24, Rockville, Maryland

This summer I had the opportunity to work as a research assistant in ModLab, a subgroup in GRASP. The lab focuses on modular robotics, which are robots that consist of numerous simple modules that …

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Career Services
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Becoming the Owner of Your Own Education

Hertha Maria Torre Gallego, COL ’24, Madrid, Spain

Introspective, wistful, and intense — that is how I remember the months I spent working on my college applications. Yet, as an international student from Spain, I also found the process difficult and …

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Career Services
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From Failure to Leadership: Lessons for Executive Growth and Development

Today, Henry Ford is synonymous with American innovation and progress.

But while he was developing his first automobile, his investors decided he was too careful – and they backed out of their agreement. 

The second time he started a company, he …

By Ivy Exec
Ivy Exec is your dedicated career development resource.
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On Leveraging Immortality, Splicing, and Erythroid Stem Cells

Annie Xia, COL ’25, Cincinnati, Ohio

This summer, I was glad to have the opportunity to continue my work at the Jurado Lab at Perelman’s Department of Microbiology. Coming into Penn as an aspiring physician-scientist, I’d always hoped to hone …

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Career Services
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