Thoughts on What the F to do with a Ph.D. beyond Academia
Since I made the decision to leave academia, like any good researcher, I have obsessively looked into what my options are, what I can do about with a Ph.D., or more generally, what I could do for a living that I would get some satisfaction and a decent paycheck from.
Here are some interesting jobs that I've come across in my search and networking adventures:
1. Higher Ed Admin-- I know what you're thinking, that you got into higher ed to do research and publish and teach-- but hear me out for a minute (and stay tuned for an interview in the works with two people with Ph.D.s who are now on the admin side of it) -- because I think for a lot of people this is an awesome option for many reasons.
Reason One: $$$ (money)-- with a Ph.D., entering into the admin side, at a large public university at least, you're starting out at around $60,000 (or more!) and you are in line to become a dean, who can make a very comfy six salary figure eventually.
Reason Two: If you are good at juggling multiple tasks (and, if you're getting a Ph.D., chances are, you are), and good at dealing with red tape and administrative tasks, such as, organizing a conference, sending out invites, coordinating speakers arrival's, arranging for their lodging, preparing an introductory speech, coordinating room rental and caterers, then the admin side of higher ed might be good for you. You get to approach education from a different angle, and to be quite honest, the most valuable angle, as you can be directly involved in policy and ensuring students get the most out of their university education.
2. Non-Profit sector and Grant writing: I recently met with Adam Capitanio, based off a rather old blog entry he did about working in the publishing field. His interview is fantastic, and I definitely recommend reading it here. At the time, I was interested in publishing, so I reached out to him for coffee and to ask him about it. He had since left publishing, and now works as a Senior Program Office for Humanities New York. He proudly told me about how, at his new job, he helped manage fellowships and grants for Ph.D. students, and that his favorite project was a fellowship that assisted Ph.D. students in gaining practical experience that would serve them beyond academia as well as within it. If you're still a Ph.D. student, see the action grant here.
Another valuable thing I learned from Adam is that he got his current job by attending a Versatile Ph.D. happy hour-- as in-- he got it from networking with fellow Ph.D. students! I'm NYC based, and unfortunately for me, there are no Versatile PhD meet ups here anymore! Regardless, their website is amazing, and was really informative for me.
3. Freelance Writing: This is currently what I'm doing, and to be honest, it's a rough slog. But I've learned a lot about myself, about what I really want from my post-ac career, and it's easy to pick up almost immediately. There are a lot of podcasts that are really informative about freelance writing: The Smarter Freelancing Podcast, High-Income Business Writing: Freelance Writing Podcast , and the Freelance Writing Success Podcast. And once you feel ready, the website Upwork is where you pitch people with a quote and what you can do for them. The Smarter Freelancing's podcast "How Chelsea Baldwin Booked her First Five-Figure Month (Without Driving Herself Crazy)" is about pitching people on such websites to get writing gigs is incredibly helpful, check it out here. These are all just introductions to this incredibly varied path, so hopefully this might give you a sense of what this type of path would look like. Also check out the High-Income Business Writing website here.
The above podcasts are really about copy-writing gigs, which is great for part time work, but thinking more towards content and interest, journalism is a natural fit for Ph.D.s. Also, in the current strange and dim news reality we have, why wouldn't we want Ph.D.s, who are trained to question everything and obsessively track down information, as journalists? Just think about it, your work gets a wider audience, and thus makes a greater impact on the world.
4. Teaching at a High School. I know, I know, I know: but you're better than that. You want to push the envelop, you want to be respected as a scholar, and HS is not the way your advisor told you to do it. But hear me out: I taught at a creative arts charter high school for a year and a half while working on my Ph.D. and I freaking fell in love with it and the students! The school I was at was specifically catered towards the arts, so the school was full of incredibly talented and creative kids, and most of them were unabashedly proud nerds. What this translates to in the classroom: dynamic conversations, a hard work ethic, and a genuine interest in and engagement with the material.
I learned so much from my students, and I also learned to be a good teacher here. I am still getting thank you note cards from former students, a year after I left for a finishing fellowship. Also, when I was teaching, my salary was based on my education level at the time-- which was just a Master's, and the pay was much better than adjuncting. It's a strange reality when teaching at a public school is the highest paycheck you've ever gotten. With a Ph.D. however, you start out at a higher salary base, and while this varies wildly from state to state and school district to school district, it is definitely hirer than starting TT positions!
There is also the possibility of teaching at a private school, which offers greater freedom in material, but other than that, I cannot speak towards it. If there are any Ph.D.s reading this who currently teach at a private school-- please get in touch with me, I'd love to post about your experiences!
5. Marketing Research: This, I have found, seems to be the most directly applicable to those of us in the social sciences, that is, those of us used to dealing with data, spread sheets, and everything that comes with that. Since I am not in the social sciences, I'll refer you outward, to the links I've found about this particular path, so you can see if it might be right for you. Check out Versatile PhDs Career Finder section on Marketing to start. Also, I recommend the Forums on Versatile PhD as well, they're easy to skim through and help give you a sense of the larger post-ac or alt-ac community.
To finish off, I'd like to say something about the Museum field, something that I have been told to do, especially since I'm an art historian. However, during my grad school days, I interned at several museums, worked with curators, etc, and this blog post titled "Why It's Brave to Quit the Museum Field: Part One" is so, so true. Check it out the rest this excellent website, The Female Gaze, here
Also, here are some articles that I found really helpful and comforting as I began my search (presented here in no particular order)
Slate's article "Alt-Ac to the Rescue? Humanities Ph.D.s are daring to enjoy their "regular" jobs, and the definition of academic success is changing. Sort of." by Rebecca Schuman.
The website, Alt-Ac Advisor, offers interesting glimpses into fields that I certainly would not have thought of, and is an interesting read. I should note I have not used Alt-Ac Advisor's paid services, so I don't know about it, but I do know I enjoy their website.
Alright, folks, that's all I've got for today. Good luck with everything! See you at the next post!