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5 Exciting Career Paths In Industry For Humanities PhDs

Contributing Author: Surayya Taranum, PhD

The academic route of PhDs going on to gain long-term employment in universities is no longer a viable career option.

More and more PhDs are considering transition into industry.

The U.S. National Science Foundation’s (NSF’s) Survey of Doctorate Recipients shows that industry hiring of PhDs is beginning to be on par with academia.

With a hiring trend like this, industry is set to be the major employer for PhDs.

However, most discussions around industry careers for PhDs focus on the STEM fields.

This emphasis on STEM industry roles creates an impression that it is hard, if not impossible, for PhDs in Humanities to find sustainable industry jobs.

So is it true that PhDs in Humanities cannot have a successful industry career?

Are there no viable career options for Humanities outside of academia?

That’s not the case at all, as it turns out.

In the US, the unemployment rate for those with a humanities degree is 4%, which is just a little over the 3% that exists for those with a STEM or business degree.

There are abundant career opportunities for Humanities PhDs outside of academia.

Because as a Humanities PhD, you have gained the transferable skills you need for a successful industry transition.

As a Humanities PhD, you have gained the transferable skills you need for a successful industry career.

The challenges that you face in your industry transition are no different from your STEM peers.

Humanities PhDs can apply the same job search strategy as STEM PhDs to make a successful transition into industry.

The same golden rules for industry transition apply to both Humanities and STEM PhDs.

For both, networking and informational interviews are key to understanding their industry career options and preferences.

For both, a correct job search strategy is critical to landing the job referral they need for their industry transition.

Just like STEM PhDs, a professional LinkedIn profile, great networking strategy and transition plan are key to successful transition for Humanities PhDs.

With the correct career strategy in place, Humanities PhDs can look forward to a successful and fulfilling career path in industry.

Why A Humanities PhD Can Set You Up For A Successful Industry Career

Many people including Senator Rubio and former President Obama (he later apologized) have criticized the value of a liberal arts education in the current job market.

Governments all over the world heavily emphasize on STEM education as a guarantee for a secure future.

But Humanities PhDs have no reason to believe that they lack exciting career opportunities in the future.

A PhD is a doctorate in knowledge.

As a PhD, you create new knowledge that did not exist before.

While creating new knowledge, you gain critical transferable skills that you can leverage to build a career outside your own area of expertise.

A Humanities PhD is not a ‘useless’ degree.

In fact, an excellent humanities education prepares an individual in creative and critical-thinking, and persuasion in areas outside of technology.

LinkedIn’s research shows that the 3 soft-skills most valued by employers are creativity, persuasion and collaboration.

In fact, the fastest growing jobs in the US in the last 30 years required highly developed social skills.

What Are The Top 5 Career Options For Humanities PhDs

The future is bright for Humanities PhDs.

The future is exciting for Humanities PhDs.

As a Humanities PhD, you are not the weak link in the academic system.

As a Humanities PhD you are not less that your STEM peers.

It is time for Humanities PhDs to ditch their academic mindset and step out the ivory tower to leverage their transferable skills to land that coveted industry job.

Humanities PhDs can target several types of industry roles.

Here is a list of 5 exciting career options in industry for Humanities PhDs…

1. Management & Leadership.

A Glassdoor report shows that eight of the top 10 jobs in the UK were management type roles.

Typically, managerial and leadership roles are people-oriented roles that require excellent communication skills and emotional intelligence.

Humanities PhDs have the deep understanding of cultural nuances, languages and history that they can leverage to succeed in any leadership role.

Not surprisingly, one recent study of 1700 people from over 30 countries found that majority of individuals in leadership or management positions had a humanities or social sciences degree.

Good leaders are career multipliers who can bring out the best in other people in a way that benefits the entire company.

As a Humanities PhD, you have the skills needed to be a good manager and leader.

2. Diversity & Inclusion Officer.

According to the Bureau of Statistics report, there are 7.5 million unfilled jobs and companies are vying with each other to hire top talent.

Skilled job applicants expect potential employers to demonstrate diverse and inclusive work environments, and so the importance of D&I roles is increasing.

In fact, data from Indeed shows that the demand for diversity and inclusion professionals has grown by 20%.

The role of a D&I professional encompasses business strategy, recruiting and retention of skilled employees, markets, communications, external relations, business partnerships, events, sponsorships, global diversity and inclusion.

Skilled D&I professionals who are able to integrate all these elements in business can be profound change makers in their companies.

Most major companies and businesses now realize that diversity and inclusion are critical for success in a competitive business environment.

So much so that Chief Diversity & Inclusion Officer roles are now elevated to the C-suite status, and many D&I Officers report directly to the CEOs and presidents instead of the HR.

Talented and business-oriented Humanities PhDs can leverage their leadership and interpersonal abilities to forge a successful career in this exciting role.

3. UX Designer.

For Humanities PhDs interested in technology, UX design or User Experience design is the perfect career option!

What is UX design?

UX design is a comprehensive term to describe all stages of user engagement and experience with the product.

UX design is the critical component of product development that helps make the product user friendly.

UX designers gain insights through customer interactions and user research that help the technology teams to build the best products in the market.

UX designers constantly look for ways to improve user experience of the product.

The role of a UX designer is critical in product development as tech teams are often lacking in diversity of perspectives.

According to the LinkedIn list of the most sought-after soft skills, employers today are looking for creativity, adaptability, collaboration and analytical reasoning capabilities.

These transferable skills are key to a successful career in UX design.

Humanities PhDs can leverage their diverse backgrounds and transferable skills to bring unique value and perspective to their teams to bring exciting new products to the market.

4. Product Manager.

Product Management is an essential component of business strategy as it aligns the company with its target market.

Product management is an end-to-end process of developing products from conception and production to the first contact with the customer, and spans the entire product lifecycle.

In fact, the role is so important that the product manager is one of the first, and most important, hires a startup can make to ensure its success.

A top-notch product manager must have skills in leadership, influence, persuasion, innovation, creativity that they can leverage along with product knowledge to ensure its success in the market.

As a Humanities PhD, you can leverage the soft skills and academic discipline that you have acquired to succeed in this exciting and important industry role.

5. Business Developer.

The main task of a business developer is to create long-term and sustainable value for the company through cultivating valuable markets, customers and relationships.

A business developer is responsible for helping their company acquire new customers and sell more products or services in order to help the organization grow and expand.

The job entails diverse set of responsibilities that range from business strategy, marketing and sales; there is a high demand for skilled business developers in industry.

Successful business development requires a sound commercial strategy; business developers must be capable of creative thinking, prioritization, critical-thinking and problem solving, strong interpersonal and communication skills.

Humanities PhDs have acquired all these skills already and can leverage them to transition into business development roles.

Most discussions around industry careers for PhDs focus on the STEM fields. This emphasis on STEM industry roles creates an impression that it is hard for Humanities PhDs to find jobs in industry. This is simply not true. Humanities PhDs can apply the same job search strategy as STEM PhDs to make a successful transition into industry. While creating new knowledge, Humanities PhDs gain critical transferable skills that they can leverage to build a career in industry. Humanities PhDs have the deep understanding of cultural nuances, languages and history that they can leverage to succeed in any business or leadership role. It is time for Humanities PhDs to ditch their academic mindset, step out the ivory tower, and leverage their transferable skills to land that coveted industry job.

To learn more about the 5 Exciting Career Paths In Industry For Humanities PhDs, including instant access to our exclusive training videos, case studies, industry insider documents, transition plan, and private online network, get on the wait list for the Cheeky Scientist Association.

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Surayya Taranum

Surayya is a PhD in Biochemistry and is currently a cohort member at Entrepreneur First in Paris. She is also Director of Membership at the Healthcare Businesswomen’s Association Paris Chapter, and Communications Lead in its Entrepreneurship Group for Women. Surayya is passionate about biology, science communication, and inclusive leadership. She is also an avid reader and hiker.
Surayya Taranum


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