Which path to take after the doctorate ?

This question is related to perceptions of the doctorate. Is the latter above all the first step on the academic career path or is it also preparation for other professions linked to the scientific world?

Whichever path is chosen, it’s advisable not to wait till you have finished your thesis before reflecting on the next stage of your career, gathering information and establishing contacts.

Academic career

Only a minority of individuals engaged in doctoral studies pursue an academic career over the long term. According to figures published by the Federal Office of Statistics, only 34 % of PhD holders are employed on the academic market one year after obtaining their qualification (source, in French).

Indeed, preparation for a postdoctoral position (preparing the presentation of your research dossier, possibly applying for a grant and waiting for a response from the SNSF, negotiating the best possible employment terms, organising possible relocation as a single person or couple and if necessary arranging childcare and schooling, etc.) all takes time.

Even if you opt for an academic career, envisaging and preparing a « plan B » is worthwhile since academic posts are relatively scarce and recruitment is highly selective.

Outside academia

The non-academic job market offers diverse and varied career opportunities to PhD holders. Indeed, doing a doctorate does not simply amount to acquiring advanced scientific knowledge in a particular field, but also offers the possibility of developing more general methodological and social skills that are transferable and appreciated outside academia.

The type of company in which PhD holders employed on the non-academic job market work varies depending on the particular field.

Generally the doctorate constitutes an asset for obtaining a post with responsibilities. However, in order to maximise your chances, it’s a good idea to plan and prepare for a career on the non-academic job market well in advance. Indeed, further training or practical experience may be required in certain sectors. Those in charge of the recruitment process may also sometimes underestimate the work experience of PhD holders, who will then have to convince them.


More information: Report  "L'insertion professionnelle des docteurs en Suisse"   (2015, CUSO).


You can also seek more advice and get specific information by turning to the corresponding office of your university:

EPFL : Career centre 

University of Fribourg : Careers in research

University of  Geneva : Uni-Emploi (in French)

University of  Lausanne : Service d'orientation et carrières (in French, see also Perspectives professionnelles après l'UNIL

University of Neuchâtel : Centre de carrière