Post-doc opportunities - how common? Watch

aimlou83
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Just wondering really.....

I'm a mature student hoping to return to academia to do my MA and then hopefully progress (obviously time will tell). I'm just wondering how to find out about post-doctoral or associate-ships within university departments. I'm really struggling to find ANY positions advertised so are they normally an internal type of affair or am I missing a trick?

Thanks.

ETA: I'll be studying history and heritage. I don't know whether it's different for arts/humanities subjects but though that might be of import.
TIA
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BnThereDnThat
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(Original post by aimlou83)
Just wondering really.....

I'm a mature student hoping to return to academia to do my MA and then hopefully progress (obviously time will tell). I'm just wondering how to find out about post-doctoral or associate-ships within university departments. I'm really struggling to find ANY positions advertised so are they normally an internal type of affair or am I missing a trick?

Thanks.

ETA: I'll be studying history and heritage. I don't know whether it's different for arts/humanities subjects but though that might be of import.
TIA
There are so many variables and hence no-one can give you a standardised answer: it depends on your field, university, funding that year, faculty, research concentration in the department, etc. For social sciences like history I would say postgrad opportunities are more scarce these days. You're right in that a lot of this stuff is internal and depends on your connection to your supervisor/faculty. That would be your best bet to secure a postdoc fellowship; going for standard application is very difficult due to the competition.
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QHF
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(Original post by aimlou83)
Just wondering really.....

I'm a mature student hoping to return to academia to do my MA and then hopefully progress (obviously time will tell). I'm just wondering how to find out about post-doctoral or associate-ships within university departments. I'm really struggling to find ANY positions advertised so are they normally an internal type of affair or am I missing a trick?

Thanks.

ETA: I'll be studying history and heritage. I don't know whether it's different for arts/humanities subjects but though that might be of import.
TIA
As BnThereDnThat says, it varies a lot depending on your specific subject and context. In most of the humanities there really are very few teaching-and-researching jobs, and very very few permanent lecturer positions even at the early/mid career level.

A tiny number of people each year win British Academy or Leverhulme postdoctoral research grants, and a tiny number of people each year get junior research fellowships at Oxford or Cambridge colleges which function like a postdoctoral grant. (JRFs are advertised publicly but some do get handed off to internal candidates.) Get one of those and it'll keep you in the game for a few years and set you up for one of the junior permanent positions there aren't.

Other than that there's usually a little bit of temporary work going, usually teaching-only roles, and then there's the wider world of alternative academic jobs ('alt-ac') -- research administration, particular roles on other people's research projects, quasi-academic work in the heritage sector, and so on. And beyond that you can spin postgraduate qualifications in the humanities as preparation for a wide variety of roles, particularly if you're a mature student who already has some non-academic employment history.

The majority of humanities PhDs don't find work in academia, if I recall correctly. If you do really want to work in academia you can probably find employment but the chances of being employed as a 'traditional' academic are quite slim.

The people in whichever department you're going to study at ought to be able to give you more information about the kinds of roles which their students go on to take up, and more precise advice about career trajectories for your discipline
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aimlou83
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Thank you both for the detailed replies. I am very aware of the highly competitive nature of this type of job, that's why I was trying to see if the universities local to me take on/are currently taking on in these departments but I couldn't find any, not just in the humanities.

I worked in museum and heritage management for 7 years prior to having my children. I am hoping this experience will help, albeit a long time ago now. I am taking one step at a time but trying to be realistic. A post-graduate course is a big investment. If I can't to some extent guarantee a return (i.e. a job that I will be happy to do and that will earn me a bit of money lol) there's no point my carrying on and I will need to find another trajectory. I will certainly be asking these questions at open days etc to see how many people stay on at the university etc to assess my chances then.

Thanks again.
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poohat
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There are no academic humanities jobs, do not do a PhD expecting to get one
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aimlou83
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(Original post by poohat)
There are no academic humanities jobs, do not do a PhD expecting to get one
Well that's a bit of a broad statement to make isn't it? What are lecturers and researchers doing if not a job? What qualifications do they have if not PhD's? I'm not saying I will be a lecturer in 10 years - it entirely depends on my own ability and the opportunities that open up to me, but I do think a certain amount of ambition has to be present to do anything. If you don't aim high, how will you know where your limit is? I'm 31 years old...I'm no fresh-faced, rose-tinted graduate expecting to walk into my dream career. Far from it in fact, but I think this kind of statement would put a lot of people off....in fact, are you a humanities PhD candidate who is trying to stave off the competition?
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gutenberg
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(Original post by aimlou83)
Well that's a bit of a broad statement to make isn't it? What are lecturers and researchers doing if not a job? What qualifications do they have if not PhD's? I'm not saying I will be a lecturer in 10 years - it entirely depends on my own ability and the opportunities that open up to me, but I do think a certain amount of ambition has to be present to do anything. If you don't aim high, how will you know where your limit is? I'm 31 years old...I'm no fresh-faced, rose-tinted graduate expecting to waìlk into my dream career. Far from it in fact, but I think this kind of statement would put a lot of people off....in fact, are you a humanities PhD candidate who is trying to stave off the competition?
While i think poohat is perhaps being slightly hyperbolic, I do think there is a crucial kernel of truth to their statement. As QHF says the great majority of humanities PhD graduates will not end up in permanent 'traditional' academic jobs. Most of those lecturers and profs that are employed now were hired in different employment climates- there are relatively few permanent posts now akin to what there were when someone who is in their 40s and 50s was hired. Temporary and per-course employment is now more common as it's cheaper for universities.

I wouldn't entirely discourage you from trying, but would say that 1) do not do a PhD without winning funding. I don't think it's worth it; and 2) try and secure a well-known supervisor, and/or attend a well-respected university. The latter is not the be-all and end-all, but I think is helpful in the job hunt afterwards,

Disclaimer: I'm a PhD student in the humanities
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aimlou83
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(Original post by gutenberg)
While i think poohat is perhaps being slightly hyperbolic, I do think there is a crucial kernel of truth to their statement. As QHF says the great majority of humanities PhD graduates will not end up in permanent 'traditional' academic jobs. Most of those lecturers and profs that are employed now were hired in different employment climates- there are relatively few permanent posts now akin to what there were when someone who is in their 40s and 50s was hired. Temporary and per-course employment is now more common as it's cheaper for universities.

I wouldn't entirely discourage you from trying, but would say that 1) do not do a PhD without winning funding. I don't think it's worth it; and 2) try and secure a well-known supervisor, and/or attend a well-respected university. The latter is not the be-all and end-all, but I think is helpful in the job hunt afterwards,

Disclaimer: I'm a PhD student in the humanities


No I do understand that. Thank you. I will certainly be playing it by ear. I have other strings to my bow but would be lying to say this wasn't the ambition. I'm still a fair way off this though so we will just have to see. Thanks
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QHF
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(Original post by aimlou83)


No I do understand that. Thank you. I will certainly be playing it by ear. I have other strings to my bow but would be lying to say this wasn't the ambition. I'm still a fair way off this though so we will just have to see. Thanks
Yeah, I'd echo what gutenberg said. There are permanent jobs going in the humanities, and I know this for a fact because I know people who have been hired into them in the last few years. But they really are very few, so few that you could perhaps say they are a meaningless number compared to the number of people getting PhDs!

Funding for the PhD is a good thing because it reduces the cost (it doesn't remove it, of course, because you're still giving up a lot of time and abandoning other career opportunities), but also because it helps you with academic and non-academic employers afterwards: it makes you more employable within academia, and can sometimes help you justify your PhD outside academia. I'm also very wary about the idea of doing an un-funded PhD.

If you're the one-in-a-thousand person who has all the stars line up for them at each stage through postgraduate study, postdoctoral work and early-career employment, that's great. But if you're dead set on giving academic employment a try it's probably best going into the process with the assumption that it isn't going to work out, so that you can give it your best, but also have some thought-through backup plans to fall back on. You're probably better placed to have that realism than someone who's gone straight through from entering university as an undergraduate at 18 without holding down jobs outside academia.
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poohat
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(Original post by aimlou83)
Well that's a bit of a broad statement to make isn't it?
No

What are lecturers and researchers doing if not a job?
The researchers are usually complaining about the fact that there are zero faculty jobs anymore hence why they have to spend their lives working as teaching fellows/adjunts with no job security and terrible pay

I'm not saying I will be a lecturer in 10 years
Thats good, because you wont.

I think this kind of statement would put a lot of people off
It should. Dont do a PhD in the humanities if you have any desire to get a job afterwards. Treat it as a 3 year holiday, where you get to study something you enjoy and end up in the same place you started.

Im not trying to be mean, this is just a reality check. Do not do a humanities PhD if you are expecting an academic job afterwards
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Josb
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(Original post by aimlou83)
Thank you both for the detailed replies. I am very aware of the highly competitive nature of this type of job, that's why I was trying to see if the universities local to me take on/are currently taking on in these departments but I couldn't find any, not just in the humanities.

I worked in museum and heritage management for 7 years prior to having my children. I am hoping this experience will help, albeit a long time ago now. I am taking one step at a time but trying to be realistic. A post-graduate course is a big investment. If I can't to some extent guarantee a return (i.e. a job that I will be happy to do and that will earn me a bit of money lol) there's no point my carrying on and I will need to find another trajectory. I will certainly be asking these questions at open days etc to see how many people stay on at the university etc to assess my chances then.

Thanks again.
I think you have more chance to become a curator than a lecturer.
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apotoftea
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(Original post by aimlou83)
Well that's a bit of a broad statement to make isn't it? What are lecturers and researchers doing if not a job? What qualifications do they have if not PhD's? I'm not saying I will be a lecturer in 10 years - it entirely depends on my own ability and the opportunities that open up to me, but I do think a certain amount of ambition has to be present to do anything. If you don't aim high, how will you know where your limit is? I'm 31 years old...I'm no fresh-faced, rose-tinted graduate expecting to walk into my dream career. Far from it in fact, but I think this kind of statement would put a lot of people off....in fact, are you a humanities PhD candidate who is trying to stave off the competition?
I'm a History PhDer, writing up with funding and have had heritage experiences through it (plus a Heritage work placement at undergrad). I'm also at my third university so don't have a blinkered approach to HE. I'm not even considering a career in HE despite having a decent CV (conference papers, teaching experience, work experience, book reviews published). Why? Because a) I want out of HE and the culture it has now become b) the lack of security and short job contract lengths isn't for me and c) I'm not good enough for the competition to stand a chance of getting a post.

History posts are incredibly competitive. Think upwards of 100, 200, 300 plus applicants per one post, depending on location. All of them will have stellar long CVs, excellent references, taught History to poor children half way up Everest etc etc. Postdocs and ECR posts are advertised for History but they're not freely available hence their competitive nature. Some also don't pay very well - I've seen ones that pay less than my PhD funding for example - and with short contracts, you have to consider the possibility of having to move around for work. Once you're in the post, it's a constant demand for research output (if you're not making the university money through 'impact' then forget it), admin and teaching, which in itself takes up a huge amount of work. Remember though it's research first, undergrads are sadly seen as an after thought in a number of the bigger universities. You've also still got to factor in giving papers, running conferences etc.

In order to even consider going that, you've got to do a PhD. Where you've got to read and research, and still teach, publish, give papers, get yourself known, seen to be part of the on going team, and potentially work more hours than you may want to, for at the time, what seems like little reward. A PhD on its own will not get you a job interview, and having a funded one will only help. There's a school of thought that non funded research for the most part will mean an automatic binning of your job application, unless you're lucky to have a leading prof as your supervisor, or you've somehow got money elsewhere. PhD funding for History is only available at certain universities (Warwick, Birkbeck, QMUL and LSE do not have AHRC funding for the next five years. AHRC is the biggest and primary provider of funding for History PhD research).

This isn't meant to be depressing or negative, it's sadly the state in which History is these days. Get yourself on twitter and follow numerous PhD students who are tweeting day in, day out about the battles faced getting a job. I know some PhD students with stellar CVs who arn't getting a look in, and it's not because they lack ambition or ability.

For a solely History PhD, having curatorial skills won't really gain you anything but it will help for the more collaborative PhD studentships around. These are slightly less competitive but require in some ways, more work because you're at the mercy of your collaborative partner to do work for them alongside your standard thesis. I've got to do an exhibition through mine which was fantastic, but it took time out of the most important thing - my thesis. The collaborative PhDs or CDAs as they're known are still relatively new and I'm not sure how they're viewed at interview level. Obviously for a university that offers Heritage on their degree courses, the extra skills and experience would be favourable, depending on the job you're applying for. Some of the CDAs are based with some of the best museums in the country and that certainly has its benefits. I've enjoyed mine in parts, but have hit other issues (pm me if you want to know exactly what).


On a wider application side, getting onto an MA isn't hard if you can fund it and getting PhD offers is not hard either. Getting the funding is. I think PhD studentships are around the 80 applicants per studentship post. Getting into academia, especially for History (and Heritage whilst smaller and more niche, it remains competitive given the few departments that offer it as a subject) will be hard. Having a MA, PhD and curatorial skills will never just be enough. You need to look at the pay scales too because no one goes into academia to make money and there is absolutely no guarantee of getting a job at the end of it. You'd be right that a lot of posts are aimed at internal candidates but have to be advertised.
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Josb
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(Original post by apotoftea)
You'd be right that a lot of posts are aimed at internal candidates but have to be advertised.
Damn, British unis do that as well? :mad:
I'm leaving France because it seems that nepotism is the only way to get a job (in Academia or the 'real world'), I'd be disappointed to find the same situation.

As an aside, do you know how good are British PhDs considered in other English speaking countries - especially Canada?

What do you want to do after you PhD (as you're not applying to lectureships)? I'm also trying to find a plan B (and C...), but it's not easy.:cry2:
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apotoftea
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(Original post by Josb)
Damn, British unis do that as well? :mad:
I'm leaving France because it seems that nepotism is the only way to get a job (in Academia or the 'real world'), I'd be disappointed to find the same situation.
You'd be naive to think nepotism doesn't happen when it comes to employment anywhere in the world to be honest.
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QHF
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(Original post by Josb)
As an aside, do you know how good are British PhDs considered in other English speaking countries - especially Canada?
I'm not an expert but I can pass on what I've gleaned from conversations with various people in the humanities. Which is that since North American PhD programmes take longer and involve more professionalisation it's rare for institutions in Canada (or the US) to hire people straight out of British PhDs. There isn't, at least as far as I've heard, any problem with the quality of the qualification, but someone with a North American PhD is, from the point of view of a selection committee, a little bit more like someone with a British PhD and a couple of years full-time experience researching and teaching in HE afterwards.

But this is all based just on conversations with people at US and Canadian universities either at conferences or when I've been in North America for research. I'm happy to be put right by anyone who knows more about it.
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windrainandbooks
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(Original post by QHF)
I'm not an expert but I can pass on what I've gleaned from conversations with various people in the humanities. Which is that since North American PhD programmes take longer and involve more professionalisation it's rare for institutions in Canada (or the US) to hire people straight out of British PhDs. There isn't, at least as far as I've heard, any problem with the quality of the qualification, but someone with a North American PhD is, from the point of view of a selection committee, a little bit more like someone with a British PhD and a couple of years full-time experience researching and teaching in HE afterwards.

But this is all based just on conversations with people at US and Canadian universities either at conferences or when I've been in North America for research. I'm happy to be put right by anyone who knows more about it.
I did my BA and MA at a Canadian institution, and this is what the Canadian professors I talked to about studying in Britain said to me as well (including some who did their PhDs in England).
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Josb
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(Original post by apotoftea)
You'd be naive to think nepotism doesn't happen when it comes to employment anywhere in the world to be honest.
Yeah I know, but it's not as bad as here. I found an amazing internship in the UK just by sending an email. :lolwut:
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BnThereDnThat
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(Original post by Josb)
Damn, British unis do that as well? :mad:
I'm leaving France because it seems that nepotism is the only way to get a job (in Academia or the 'real world'), I'd be disappointed to find the same situation.

As an aside, do you know how good are British PhDs considered in other English speaking countries - especially Canada?

What do you want to do after you PhD (as you're not applying to lectureships)? I'm also trying to find a plan B (and C...), but it's not easy.:cry2:
Nepotism is everywhere and in every sector/industry I'm afraid- welcome to the real world .
I can answer your second question from experience: I got my PhD from Cambridge and worked for the Canadian government for a year. I will say this: if your PhD is from Oxbridge or LSE it is very highly regarded. These three universities are seen as better than the Canadian unis and are put in the same league as the Harvards, Yales, Princetons, and Stanfords. In my case, the interviewer mentioned Cambridge during my interview and was impressed. Otherwise, I do think they would prefer McGill, UofT or Western as not only are they their alma maters, but they actually are very good universities.

Unlike some people I see the PhD as a very versatile degree: I ended up doing some teaching, some public policy work, and I'm sure I could easily go into consulting/IB if I wanted to. No one can tell you what career is option is best for you because that depends on your preferences, but know that a PhD opens up a lot more career paths than people expect.
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