4 Irresistible Career Paths For Social Science PhDs (#4 Is Interesting And Rare)

Have you been told that after a PhD in Humanities and Social Sciences, you could find a job only in academia?

This is far from the truth!

For a majority of the social science PhDs, the path to a rewarding career lies outside of academe. 

It may take some time to process this information.

But it’s now clear that tenure-track jobs are getting harder to come by. By 2017, only 30% of PhDs in social sciences had a tenure-track position within faculties (National Science Foundation). 

Industry careers for social science PhDs are an attractive alternative you should consider before making your final decision. 

While it may not be what you envisioned at the start, the grass could be greener on the side of industry. 

There are many rewarding and fulfilling careers for social science PhDs available outside of academia. 

4 Interesting Career Options For Humanities And Social Science PhDs

The key is to remember your value as a PhD.

The research capabilities, dedication, and attention to detail you developed during your PhD give you transferable skills for a rewarding career outside of academia. By applying the same discipline, you can find a long and rewarding career in some of the most interesting fields available today. 

If you know where to look, there is a world of opportunities you may have previously missed. 

To help you start thinking beyond a faculty job in academia, we’ve collected four interesting career paths for social science PhDs. 

1. Staying With Higher Education Or Administration

Non-faculty jobs can be rewarding as they allow you to stay within the academic field. Just because you couldn’t find a tenure-track position doesn’t mean you need to abandon your dreams of educating and guiding others. 

Colleges, community colleges, and universities often rely on people who have the skills you’ve spent years developing as a PhD. Depending on your personal disposition, you can opt for a career that requires you to apply your Humanities and Social Sciences expertise. 

Some fields you could consider include:

  • Teaching and Writing – Campuses now have learning centers that require qualified resources to assist students, giving you many opportunities to work directly with other hopeful graduates. This field will allow you to guide undergraduates to develop their own research, writing, and teaching skills. 
  • Public Affairs Offices – With your foundation in communicating complex information using the written form, a career in the campus public affairs office can also be rewarding. If writing and editing newsletters, magazines, or press releases sound like something you’d enjoy, consider a role in public affairs for academic institutions. 
  • Academic Assistance Programs – Many other PhDs will need guidance during their careers, and you could join an academic assistance program to fill this need. In an advisory or supporting role, you will help to shape the minds and careers of other PhDs. 
  • Institutional Research – You don’t have to be on a tenure-track to put your research skills to good use. A role in an institution’s research department requires you to analyze data and present findings relating to the college or university, helping shape their strategy for the future. 

2. Working For The Federal Government

The U.S. federal government is another option available to social science PhDs looking for industry jobs (Columbia University). With more than 1.7 million employees and over 400 occupational specialties, the government is one of the biggest employers in the country. Each agency has its own hiring and recruitment criteria, but you should have no problem finding a role that suits your background and interests. 

Government agencies and bureaus have their own unique mission and special research needs. Often, these include qualitative or quantitative research, allowing you to apply your knowledge from graduate school in valuable ways. 

Technology and social behavior research is now also a concern for national security, so you could find a role at the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) or another intelligence bureau. The only drawback is that these jobs are usually only available to U.S. citizens, but similar roles can be looked for in the corresponding agencies in your country. 

3. Research For Nonprofits Or Think Tanks

Are you keen on continuing your research ambitions outside of the ivory tower of academia? 

Consider joining a nonprofit organization or think tank that specializes in similar disciplines. These institutions cover almost every industry imaginable, including:

  • Research institutes and professional societies
  • Advocacy groups and charity organizations
  • Health and educational foundations
  • Religious and arts institutions

By joining one of these foundations or groups, you could end up writing grants, doing research, working to raise funds, or auditing programs. To find the ideal environment for your career, look for an institution that shares your civic ideals or personal values. While a career with a nonprofit will mean you earn a low salary, the work could be rewarding enough to give you a fulfilling professional life. 

4. Entrepreneurship Or Freelance Work

Many companies who are still in their startup phase want the most talented and educated resources to help them build new and innovative products. With your Social Sciences PhD, you can help startups of any kind study their consumers and develop products that speak to a technologically savvy generation. 

You can start your own consulting firm that helps these organizations to understand their users and clients, or provide your services as a freelance researcher if you prefer. If your previous work held commercial potential, then consider continuing the research and starting your own company. 

With a freelance or entrepreneurship career, you become your own boss and have complete control over your research. Alternatively, if you join a startup with dynamic individuals who have their own intellectual pursuits, it allows you to work in a stimulating environment with a potentially huge financial upside. 

Finding An Interesting Social Sciences Career Path With Cheeky Scientist

Cheeky Scientist works to help PhDs successfully transition from academia to industry jobs that provide a fulfilling and rewarding work life. With many new opportunities in industry available to PhDs, you don’t have to worry about your next step after getting your PhD in Humanities and Social Sciences. Industry now depends on innovative thinkers like you who can see beyond the immediate challenge and help shape long-term strategies for success. The work you’ve put to your degree can help any industry organizations adapt to a changing, challenging business world. 

If you’re ready to start your transition into industry, you can apply to book a free Transition Call with our founder Isaiah Hankel, PhD or one of our Transition Specialists. Apply to book a Transition Call here.

Book a Transition Call
Get Free Job Search Content Weekly
Isaiah Hankel, PhD
Isaiah Hankel, PhD Chief Executive Officer at Cheeky Scientist

Isaiah Hankel holds a PhD in Anatomy and Cell Biology. An expert in the biotechnology industry, he specializes in helping other PhDs transition into cutting-edge industry career tracks.

Isaiah believes--from personal experience--that if you feel stuck somewhere in your life, it’s a clear sign that you need to make a change. Don’t sit still and wait for the world to tell you what to do. Start a new project. Build your own business. Take action. Experimentation is the best teacher.

Isaiah is an internationally recognized Fortune 500 consultant, CEO of Cheeky Scientist, and author of the straight-talk bestsellers Black Hole Focus and The Science of Intelligent Achievement.

Similar Articles

4 Powerful Ways To Communicate Your PhD Value To Industry Employers

4 Powerful Ways To Communicate Your PhD Value To Industry Employers

By: Isaiah Hankel, PhD

What’s the biggest gap that you have when it comes to transitioning into industry? How do you communicate your value? This is a common question I like to ask PhDs. And, very often, I get the following answer:  Well, I’m not sure how to position myself for industry. What this actually means is that you don’t know how to communicate your value to potential employers.  You probably only know how to talk about your skills in academic terms. You only know how to talk to other academics, but industry employees don’t really care for that type of language. This leaves…

Best Of Transition: Ph.D. Jobs & Job Search Strategies, October 16th 2021

Best Of Transition: Ph.D. Jobs & Job Search Strategies, October 16th 2021

By: Isaiah Hankel, PhD

Every week, we at Cheeky Scientist scour the Internet for the best articles on topics that help in the search for the Best of Transition: PhD Job Search in the industry. Our two consultants independently search for the most informative articles in the categories of networking, CVs/resumes, interviews, transferable skills, academic blues, industry positions, and business acumen. Our consultants vote on a top article for each category and a top overall article for the week – if it’s a recent article that can help readers find and acquire PhD jobs, then we want to include it in this weekly digest.…

3 Steps To Taking Back Control Of Your Career

3 Steps To Taking Back Control Of Your Career

By: Isaiah Hankel, PhD

Academia takes away all of your control. You probably started your PhD as a confident student, knowing exactly who you were and what you wanted.  But after years facing lack of support, lack of structure, and lack of clear deadlines, you have probably lost a lot of that initial motivation. You probably are not sure of what the next steps are. You feel that you lost all the control of your future career. Something similar happened to me when I was trying to get out of graduate school. I was in a very unique situation, where my PI was the…

Best Of Transition: Ph.D. Jobs & Job Search Strategies, October 9th 2021

Best Of Transition: Ph.D. Jobs & Job Search Strategies, October 9th 2021

By: Isaiah Hankel, PhD

Every week, we at Cheeky Scientist scour the Internet for the best articles on topics that help in the search for the Best of Transition: PhD Job Search in the industry. Our two consultants independently search for the most informative articles in the categories of networking, CVs/resumes, interviews, transferable skills, academic blues, industry positions, and business acumen. Our consultants vote on a top article for each category and a top overall article for the week – if it’s a recent article that can help readers find and acquire PhD jobs, then we want to include it in this weekly digest.…

If You're This Kind Of PhD, Cheeky Scientist Isn’t Worth It

If You're This Kind Of PhD, Cheeky Scientist Isn’t Worth It

By: Amanda Johnson

Cheeky Scientist isn’t worth it for you! Yes, you read the title of this article right. You’re probably wondering why Cheeky Scientist would publish such an article on its own website. Why would any company ever advocate for anyone to avoid its products? It seems like a poor business strategy. Am I right? And is it true that Cheeky Scientist isn’t worth it for some PhDs? For me, Cheeky Scientist was definitely worth it. I’m not sure I would have escaped academia and found the career I currently enjoy without it. I’ve recommended Cheeky Scientist to many fellow PhDs. PhDs…

Best Of Transition: Ph.D. Jobs & Job Search Strategies, October 2nd 2021

Best Of Transition: Ph.D. Jobs & Job Search Strategies, October 2nd 2021

By: Isaiah Hankel, PhD

Every week, we at Cheeky Scientist scour the Internet for the best articles on topics that help in the search for the Best of Transition: PhD Job Search in the industry. Our two consultants independently search for the most informative articles in the categories of networking, CVs/resumes, interviews, transferable skills, academic blues, industry positions, and business acumen. Our consultants vote on a top article for each category and a top overall article for the week – if it’s a recent article that can help readers find and acquire PhD jobs, then we want to include it in this weekly digest.…

Is The Cheeky Scientist Association Worth It?

Is The Cheeky Scientist Association Worth It?

By: Amanda Johnson

The professor I was speaking with took a full step backward.  Her eyes widened. I had just casually repeated a piece of feedback I received on one of the graphs that I had created for a lab presentation verbatim: “I hate your colors.” I had shared the comment solely to illustrate that data visualization didn’t come naturally to me.  Sure, I wouldn’t recommend critiquing someone’s work this way. But I had heard so much worse in academia.  On top of that, I had been bullied repeatedly into apologizing anytime I showed any sign that such comments had hurt my feelings.…

Best Of Transition: Ph.D. Jobs & Job Search Strategies, September 25th 2021

Best Of Transition: Ph.D. Jobs & Job Search Strategies, September 25th 2021

By: Isaiah Hankel, PhD

Every week, we at Cheeky Scientist scour the Internet for the best articles on topics that help in the search for the Best of Transition: PhD Job Search in the industry. Our two consultants independently search for the most informative articles in the categories of networking, CVs/resumes, interviews, transferable skills, academic blues, industry positions, and business acumen. Our consultants vote on a top article for each category and a top overall article for the week – if it’s a recent article that can help readers find and acquire PhD jobs, then we want to include it in this weekly digest.…

Have A Ph.D.? Use These 3 Scripts To Breakthrough The Silence On LinkedIn

Have A Ph.D.? Use These 3 Scripts To Breakthrough The Silence On LinkedIn

By: Isaiah Hankel, PhD

Robust LinkedIn network is necessary for hiring. PhDs often think that they have plenty of time to work on the next step in their career and that they can postpone setting up a job search strategy.  Sadly, many of them wait so long that they end up in a desperate position, where they need a job yesterday. They start fixating on things like “I gotta get hired. I gotta get somebody to help me get hired. I gotta really pitch myself. I gotta talk about all my skills, I gotta ask for help on my resume.” So, they start bombarding…

Top Industry Career eBooks

Complete LinkedIn Guide For PhDs

Complete LinkedIn Guide For PhDs

Isaiah Hankel

The LinkedIn tips & strategies within have helped PhDs from every background get hired into top industry careers.

20 Most Popular Industry Career Tracks For PhDs

20 Most Popular Industry Career Tracks For PhDs

Isaiah Hankel, PhD & Arunodoy Sur, PhD

Learn about the top 20 industry careers for PhDs (regardless of your academic background). In this eBook, you will gain insight into the most popular, highest-paying jobs for PhDs – all of which will allow you to do meaningful work AND get paid well for it.

Industry Resume Guide for PhDs

Industry Resume Guide for PhDs

Isaiah Hankel, PhD

Learn how to craft the perfect industry resume to attract employers. In this eBook for PhDs, you will get access to proven resume templates, learn how to structure your bullet points, and discover which keywords industry employers want to see most on PhD resumes.