Career Pathways for Engineering PhD Candidates

Congratulations on taking the next step in your academic career by pursuing a PhD! Many students wonder what their next step will be after they complete their program. This site is intended to be used as a launching pad for your job search. In addition to this site it is recommended that you consult with your department faculty advisor, the Engineering Career Resource Center, and resources at Rackham while you conduct your job search.

The most common pathways for PhD students post graduation include Academia, Industry, and Research. In each section you will find information aimed at helping you navigate the job search process including suggested timelines for action, employment data, resources for how to begin your search, and general information.

The academic job search can be challenging, and needs to be tailored to a specific individual’s career goals. Where the industry job search can be more straightforward, searching for jobs in academia can be more opaque. For engineering students it is common to engage in a postdoctoral (also known as post doc) research or fellowship position for a couple years after you complete your program (more information about post-doc is in the Research section). Because of the changing landscape in higher education, it is becoming more competitive to secure a Tenure track position at most colleges and universities. For engineering, additional research after your PhD program is often required to be competitive for Tenure-track positions.

In addition to positions as a professor, jobs in academic administration are also a route to take within academia. Once a Tenure-track position is obtained additional time spent on committees and doing administrative tasks within your department can lead to administrative leadership and positions such as department/program chair, dean, and provost.

Research after a PhD can take many forms. You can do research work in industry, at a national laboratory, in a postdoctoral position, or for a nonprofit independent research company. 

Plug for national lab event

Working in industry is a great way to utilize the specific skills and research knowledge you obtained through your PhD program. Many companies are interested in recruiting students with a PhD for specialized, higher level, work. A combination of assessing your skills, figuring out your interests, and thinking outside the ‘academic’ box will be needed in order to focus your industry job search.