5 valuable transferable skills gained during your PhD

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Transferable skills are qualities and experiences that can be transferred from one job to another.

If you are nearing the end of your research Ph.D., you have acquired lots of hard and soft skills.

If you choose to jump onto the real-world job market, chances are that you feel unprepared for the world of work outside of academia.

To help you, here are five important transferable skills that you have gained during your Ph.D.


Before starting, you had to dive into the literature of your particular field of study and compile an impressive reference library. Not only do you know how to find relevant information but you also know how to look at it with a critical eye. You can analyse and summarise information effectively. There may even be a need to indulge in some scientific protocol writing, writing down the exact procedure and consumables needed to finish a particular project. Like a baking recipe, protocols need to be clear and concise so that they can be repeated to obtain the same, or similar, result.

Project management

As a research scientist, your time is limited but you are often working on several, sometimes unrelated, projects. This requires not only project management skills but also time management and organisational skills. These are valuable transferable skills for any employer.

You know how to make a realistic timeline, and also manage the people involved in the project. At any given moment, you know where each project stands, and what the next steps (or experiments) are. Also, who is involved, and, approximately, when you will finish it.

Oral and written communication

Communication skills are extremely important for any potential employer. Whether you are at the beginning or the end of your Ph.D. you have probably had to present your results. How many presentations have you given at lab meetings or conferences? How many essays, dissertations or papers have you written? These tasks do not merely require regurgitating what you have done or read. In order to accomplish them, you had to undergo hours of literature research and data analysis, using critical thinking to appraise the incoming information. This information is then adapted to your audience with the aim of educating, persuading, or even stimulating conversation.

Leadership and mentoring

Part of being a Ph.D. student often requires some form of teaching and/or taking a master’s student under your wing as they complete their final project. Teaching is not only about communicating it is also about conflict management and evaluation skills. You have probably seen conflicts arise between students, between students and teaching assistants (TAs) even amongst the TAs themselves, and each time a solution has been found. As a TA, you have also gained experience in evaluating performance, giving constructive feedback, and motivating students.

Stress resistance and problem-solving

No matter your field, if you are doing a Ph.D., you have most likely been stressed at one moment or the other (or all the time!). With a growing number of projects, presentations, experiments to redo, trying to keep up with the literature, meeting your supervisor or professor’s demands, and filling in the requirements for your doctoral school, Ph.Ds can be tough.

However, as you go along your journey you learn perseverance and resilience. Even after several attempts, your experiments may not be going as planned or may be taking longer; instead of feeling defeated you go back to the literature or talk to a senior member of staff in order to find a solution.

You are constantly finding creative and innovative solutions to unexpected problems.

To be able to defend your thesis, you need to solve a series of problems in order to answer your research question. Doing a Ph.D. is almost like a long exercise in problem-solving.

Remember, a Ph.D. is not just education; it is also valuable work experience!


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