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.

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Isaiah Hankel, PhD
Isaiah Hankel, PhD Chief Executive Officer at Cheeky Scientist

Dr. Isaiah Hankel is the Founder and CEO of the largest career training platform for PhDs in the world - Cheeky Scientist. His articles, podcasts and trainings are consumed annually by 3 million PhDs in 152 different countries. He has helped PhDs transition into top companies like Amazon, Google, Apple, Intel, Dow Chemical, BASF, Merck, Genentech, Home Depot, Nestle, Hilton, SpaceX, Tesla, Syngenta, the CDC, UN and Ford Foundation.

Dr. Hankel has published two bestselling books with Wiley and his methods for getting PhDs hired have been featured in the Harvard Business Review, Nature, Forbes, The Guardian, Fast Company, Entrepreneur Magazine and Success Magazine.

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