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.

Faculty Job Search Prep Camp 2023

If you are or will be on a faculty job market, join Penn Career Services for our Faculty Job Search Prep Camp, done in partnership with the Center for Teaching & Learning (CTL) and the Grad Center. Through workshops and faculty/alumni panels, we’ll help you understand how you can best prepare for each step of the process, from exploration to crafting application materials and beyond! Click here for more details.

A Summer in the Rainforest

Linda Wu, COL & WH ’24, Annandale, VA

International field ecology research isn’t always well funded, especially when there aren’t professors at Penn working with the systems you want to study. The opportunities that do exist are often extremely competitive. …

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Re-Imagining the Economics of Media

Paolo Fornasini, Master of Business Administration, 2023

In today’s crowded arena of digital products, from news sites to productivity platforms, the question of monetization weighs heavily on the minds of the companies behind them. Traditional wisdom leans towards the subscription …

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A Love Letter to Oncology Nursing

Kaitlyn Francisco, NUR ’24, East Brunswick, NJ

When I was 13 years old, I was diagnosed with osteosarcoma, a type of bone cancer. It affected my tibia in my left leg and put a halt to my regular life. I …

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My Summer in the Shin Lab

Klarissa Diaz, COL ’26, Houston, TX

Over the summer, I worked in Sunny Shin’s Immunology Lab for the Microbiology Department in the Perelman School of Medicine. I began working in her lab in October when I first came to Penn …

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Working at A Startup as A Software Engineer 

Charlie Meng, Master of Computer and Information Technology, 2024

This summer I interned at UseTapper, LLC, which is a new company working to develop a brand new mobile app for contractor business. This experience is remarkable, and it wasn’t just …

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Career Services
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