Life beyond the PhD: pathways, persistence and possibilities (a workshop for doctoral students and recent doctoral graduates)

Dr Vivienne Anderson1, Dr Catherine Gomes2

1 Higher Education Development Centre, PO Box 56, University of Otago, 65-75 Union Place West, Dunedin, New Zealand,
2 School of Media and Communication, RMIT University, GPO Box 2476, Melbourne, VIC, 3001, Australia,

As in many countries, doctoral graduates in Australia and New Zealand face an increasingly competitive and confusing employment environment. Traditionally, doctoral education was seen as providing a pathway to tenured academic work that involved both teaching and research. However, increasingly, the academic workforce is made up of people on casual, fixed-term contracts, or in teaching-only positions, who have limited job security, employment benefits, and/or prospects for advancement. Pathways to secure academic work are often lengthy and circuitous. Finding such work is especially challenging for those with family commitments, who are unable to move, or whose area of expertise is not ‘in demand’. However, doctoral education can be seen as much more than ‘academic internship’ since students learn a wide variety of skills that can be applied to a range of employment contexts. They also develop a way of thinking that is sorely needed in a complex world marked by environmental, social and economic uncertainty. How can doctoral students prepare for and pre-empt post-study employment challenges? And how can new graduates in less-than-ideal positions keep their spirits up and their options open?

In this interactive workshop intended for doctoral students and recent doctoral graduates, we map our own, very different, post-doctoral journeys to academic employment in international education related fields. We chart the highs and lows we have experienced, noting factors that have helped (and made it hard for) us to survive and thrive so far. We also discuss alternative post-doctoral pathways, drawing on our own and others’ research. We then invite workshop participants to reflect on their own academic journeys and possible employment trajectories, including the skills and attributes they have gained from their doctoral studies (and employment experiences) so far; their preferred post-doctoral pathways; the challenges they are likely to face (or are already facing) en route; and how these might be addressed in both the short and long term.


Dr Vivienne Anderson and Dr Catherine Gomes are senior lecturers and social science researchers at the University of Otago (Vivienne) and RMIT (Catherine). They research questions relating to international student mobility (among other things). Alongside their research, Vivienne and Catherine teach and supervise a richly diverse group of students.