Discover the 20+ transferable skills that make PhDs totally employable

As a PhD or post-doc you get very used to thinking about yourself as a specialist within a specialism – for instance I studied within the Arts and Humanities Faculty, but focused on the Literature and Drama of Medieval England.

What many doctoral graduates don’t appreciate is that they’ve also acquired valuable transferable skills and knowledge which are highly sought after by today’s employers. In fact by undertaking a broad range of activities during your PhD, you develop over 20 transferable skills, making you a very attractive employee!

Let’s take a look at the four main skill areas that a well-rounded PhD student will have:

Project skills:
Project management
Managing budgets
Team working
Problem solving
Organising meetings and events

Thought leadership
Bidding for funding
International experience

Communication skills:
Public speaking
Publicity and PR
Stakeholder management
Web, email and social media

Knowledge and information skills:
Teaching and training
Managing information
Information Technology
Writing Reports

Capturing the transferable skills you have is a different way of thinking about your capabilities compared with say how many academic papers you’ve published. Yet as you start to think about yourself in this way, it can be surprisingly liberating and empowering!

In my experience of working with groups of PhD students, there is often a ‘light-bulb moment’ as they appreciate the fantastic portfolio of transferable skills they possess. It helps them to make a connection with the mainstream world of work and understand how they can market themselves to employers – as a capable generalist or as a professional ‘________’ (fill in the blank), rather than as an academic specialist. Of course, if your subject is relevant to the jobs you’re interested in, so much the better, but for many jobs your subject is less important than your transferable skills.

Further reading – transferable skills

Many thanks to Dr Ioanna Iordanou for her helpful feedback on this post! Check out Ioanna’s own blog post on PhD skills for more information and analysis.

This page was updated in January 2017 with improved further reading links.

About Chris

I've made the transition from a PhD in Medieval Studies, into a career in business, consulting and project management. But I want to give something back to the researcher community, and help everyone who's facing the challenge of finding work outside academia. Jobs on Toast is a way for me to share my insights and experience, helping you to make a successful career change. Use my five-step plan to get started right away!

9 thoughts on “Discover the 20+ transferable skills that make PhDs totally employable

  1. Pingback: Tips on Turning Your CV into a Résumé « The Unemployed Philosopher's Blog

  2. Hi Chris,
    I’m using your list of skills to design my CV because I can totally relate them to my research/teaching experience, hope that’s good 😉

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  4. Hi Aurora,
    Great idea, that’s a logical extension of making your own ’20 skills’ list, that you can use it to create a skills-based CV!

    Will your CV be viewable on the Internet anywhere? It would be cool
    for Job on Toast readers to see your CV as an example of this approach!

    Thanks so much for your comment!

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