Social science postgraduate studies give you the skills to work in a range of jobs across different sectors. The majority of postgraduates take employment within academia, but many find work in other sectors.

What social science postgraduates do

Data from the Longitudinal Survey of the Destinations of Leavers of Higher Education show that:

  • six months after graduating, 66% of leavers were in employment in the UK and 17% were working overseas - increasing over three years to 71% and 18%, respectively
  • fifty eight different career paths were described by 255 social sciences respondents, with 63% following five common pathways over the survey period
  • teaching and lecturing in higher education was by far the most common employment for social sciences respondents (40%, increasing to 42% over three years), and almost a third stayed in this employment throughout the survey period (31%)
  • most social science respondents were working as lecturers (77%), some were in professorial posts (12%), and a few were working as teaching assistants (3%)
  • ten per cent of social sciences respondents were employed in other common doctoral occupations throughout the three years.

Figures from the 2011 Vitae report:

Where social science postgraduates work

Although academia is the sector where most graduates find employment, the skills acquired through social science studies can be used in many types of employment - a valuable asset not least in today’s job market. 

Types of work entered by UK-domiciled social sciences doctoral graduates (2007) employed in the UK, based on Standard Occupational Classifications:

Postgraduate careers - pie chart

Chart taken from the 2009 Vitae publication: 

The skills postgraduates acquire

Social science postgraduate study equips you for a range of jobs - not least important in today's job market. Among the skills you gain are:

  • putting together reasoned arguments and questioning assumptions
  • understanding the processes of change in society and its institutions
  • drawing together, analysing and critically evaluating information
  • communicating concisely, clearly and accurately with others
  • using ICT to research, identify and present information
  • managing time and taking on responsibility for your own development
  • responding positively to critical feedback
  • interpreting, using and evaluating data.

Impact of doctoral careers

As well as working in academia, doctoral graduates play a crucial role in contributing to UK businesses. There is great value placed on their specialist knowledge, research skills, and problem-solving ability. Findings from The impact of doctoral careers report found that three quarters of employers taking part in the research said the loss of staff with PhDs would have either a business critical or significant impact on operations. 

Employers value doctoral graduates' deep specialist subject knowledge, excellent research and analytical skills, their capacity for critical thinking, as well as their ability to bring fresh perspectives to problems to the organisation.

Examples of postgraduate careers