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Non-Academic Careers

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Are you looking to leverage your advanced degree to land a non-academic job? Explore further to translate the skills and knowledge you have gained from your program and pursue a variety of in-demand careers within industry.

Use this page to get familiar with relevant strategies, transferable skills, and additional resources to support your plans.

Search for Jobs

Graduate students need to prepare for the job search process beyond merely looking for jobs online and hoping their graduate education has prepared them. 

Schedule Time to Job Search

Graduate school is a busy time. And the job search process is often considered a full-time job itself. You need to be aware of your time and devote time to the job search. Anyone who has a successful job knows how hard it can be, and there is no cutting corners.

  • Set weekly, monthly, and quarterly career job goals. This will help you stay on track and can help minimize anxiety when you can point to what you worked on each week. 
  • Consider sharing your goals with a friend, partner, or career counselor to help you remain accountable and on task.

Create Markers for Success

Tracking how many resumes you have sent out should not be your main or only marker for a successful job search day. Quality, not quantity, is what matters. 

  • Be sure to consider other important aspects of the job hunt such as making connections, enhancing your cover letter, tailoring your resume to a specific position, and researching potential companies. 
  • You should also be customizing your documents for each job you apply for. 

Learn More 

To learn more about preparing your documents for job applications, read our Resumes and Cover Letter pages.


Do Not Underestimate the Process

While there are more options than in the academic job route, searching for a non-academic job is still a competitive process.

  • Do not rely on submitting resumes behind a computer screen. Utilize other job searching techniques such as networking and informational interviews. By building meaningful and targeted connections, you can learn insider information that can be the missing link that helps you send in a successful job application. 
  • Speak to a career counselor for additional insight. 

Identify and Improve Your Skills 

  • Want to stand out? Consider developing specific skills that are in demand in the industry and enhance those you do have.
  • Do you have trouble with interviews? Practice answering questions about yourself with Big Interview or a mock interview with a Career Counselor
  • Need experience to further your knowledge of a particular area? Learn through classes on campus, free courses such as Coursera, Lynda.com (free for TAs), or gain experience through an internship. 
  • Want to improve your teaching skills? Consider obtaining the Certificate in College and University Teaching (CCUT). 
  • Want business skills? Consider enrolling in the Graduate Program in Management Practice Certificate through UCSB’s TMP program. 
  • Need leadership skills? Join a club on campus, check out the GSA or through your department.

 

Non-Academic Job Search

Non-academic jobs provide graduate students with ample avenues to find careers that meet a variety of goals, interests, and skills. These jobs, while not necessarily easier to obtain than academic jobs, are numerous in all locations and can meet various requirements. Below is information regarding the general categories of how to begin your search for non-academic jobs. 


Learn More 

To learn additional ideas for pursuing different job tracks, check out these key tools to utilize during the process.


Although the job market has more options, it can feel similarly overwhelming to determine where and how to begin looking for a job. Additionally, since industry jobs are varied and available for students of all academic backgrounds, these jobs are posted in ample resources. Here are some tips to get you started:

  • Start off by finding UCSB alumni, or other graduates with backgrounds similar to yours on networking sources such as LinkedIn or the UCSB Gaucho Network, and approach them for initial contacts and informational interviews. 
  • Check out professional associations’ sites which often include a “career corner” with jobs or recommendations for searching for jobs of a particular focus.
  • We also recommend further researching job tracks on websites that give an overview of job tasks, titles, and responsibilities. In addition to networking, this is a valuable strategy. 

Non-academic jobs broadly fall into the following distinct categories: research, university, teaching, public service, non-profit, and industry jobs. Read on for job search tips in each of these sectors.

Academia is not the only avenue to advance your passion for research. Research positions exist  outside of academia within think tanks, independent research institutes, and labs. You can begin the process by exploring generalist job boards for researched-based jobs within STEM, within SHELF (Social Sciences, Humanities, Education, and Fine Arts), or job boards that are combined for SHEF and STEF students.

STEM Job Boards

SHEF Job Boards

SHEF and STEF Job Boards

Beyond these generalist job boards, it is best to explore or subscribe to job boards within your field. For example, if you are looking for research jobs within Biology, you can explore BiocareersDICE for Computer Engineering, SPIE for Optics and Photonics, American Chemical for Chemistry, and Foreign Affairs for International and Foreign Relations. 

Another method to job search is to look beyond your discipline title and search based on your interests and funding streams that support those projects. For example, if you are interested in advancing health research, the National Institutes of Health are the nation’s premier venue for advancing medical research. If global health and eradication of notorious diseases is your passion, institutions such as the Gates Foundation may be a good place to start. If you are interested in conducting cutting-edge, scientific research with impactful outcomes, you may consider government opportunities with the Department of Energy, or NASA.  

Research job applications can be more time consuming and focused than a general industry job; thus you should focus on a targeted strategy that emphasizes the quality of your application over the quantity of applications. 
 

Around the world, think tanks advance critical research in manners accessible to wider audiences. Pursuing your passion for research at a think tank can potentially impact policy making while incorporating your interests and passions. Consider moving to major metropolitan areas that emphasize policy development, such as state capitals or Washington D.C. The Nippon Institute for Research Advancement compiles a list of think tanks from around the world. Some Washington D.C.-based, high-impact think tanks (including the American Enterprise Institute, Brookings, Carnegie Endowment For International Peace, and The Heritage Foundation) conduct research on all areas of policy making from health, education, and housing to foreign, trade, and security policy. If you want to remain in California, the RAND Corporation, which is one of the country’s premier think tanks, is based in Santa Monica, and conducts research in all areas.

Another approach to policy work is through conducting research into individual programs within these think tanks. For example, if you are interested in urban renewal and issues related to cities, the Brookings Institution has a well-recognized Metropolitan Policy Program. Conversely, if you are interested in contributing to a particular subject, there are certain think tanks that only focus on a particular subject or area. If you are interested in democracy promotion abroad, consider opportunities at places such as the National Democratic Institute or the International Republican Institute. In addition, if your passion is poverty alleviation, consider working for MIT’s Abdul Latif Jameel Poverty Action Lab (JPAL).

If you are passionate about higher education, and you prefer to advance it by enhancing students' university experiences, a position within a university’s administration will likely benefit you. University administration jobs exist in a variety of fields. Typically, there are two types of job tracks in the university administration setting: academic affairs and student affairs. Student affairs positions refer to anything that is part of the student-facing side, such as jobs in student health, admissions, multicultural centers, and resource centers. Academic affairs include jobs such as academic coordinators, research centers, and faculty senate support roles. All of these positions are critical to ensure the university experience is wholesome for students. Sites in which you can begin your search for university administration jobs include:

You can also begin the search by compiling a list of the most prominent universities in your desired area and navigating those universities’ job boards. For example, if you would like to remain in Santa Barbara after you graduate, you can begin looking for university jobs on UCSB’s internal job board for staff-based jobs or UCSB's academic job board (Recruit), for academically-oriented jobs. If you are interested in living in the Los Angeles metropolitan area, check out UCLA Careers and USC Careers, and continue your search by exploring specific schools in that area. 

If you are passionate about teaching and want to impact students’ early in their lives, consider a career in K-12 teaching. Teaching positions in the K-12 system have distinct advantages that might appeal to those looking for a certain type of work-life balance. However, keep in mind that you may need additional qualifications beyond your graduate degree, such as a single-subject or multi-subject credential. Generally, if you want to work in a public school system in the US, you need to have a specific credential. 


Learn More 

UCSB’s Teacher Education Program has further information on specific requirements for teaching professions. In addition, EdJoin compiles a fairly exhaustive list of opportunities within public schools for the state of California. 


However, if you are not interested in additional credentialing, consider working at a private or charter school, where your graduate degree may cross over. Beneficial points to begin your search include Carney, Sandoe, and Associates (a nationwide teacher recruitment firm) and the National Association of Independent Schools. You can also look for K-12 jobs in charter schools around the country on the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools job board.

It is also advisable to look for K-12 opportunities within your desired location. For example; if you are looking to settle in Santa Barbara after graduation, Santa Barbara Unified School District maintains its own job portal. 

Teaching Abroad

Some graduates have found rewarding careers teaching abroad. American educators are in-demand throughout the world, and especially in countries where English is not the primary medium of instruction. American educators go on to teach not only English at schools and universities abroad, but other subjects as well. When considering teaching abroad, it is best to determine a few regions of the world that both interest you and require your skills, as an open-ended global search could become too unwieldy. Resources that provide overviews of the nature of jobs and their requirements include:

You can also explore more region-specific openings with sites from organizations including:

To understand cultural and country-specific job trends and view international jobs boards, visit GoinGlobal via Handshake  and check out the “International Jobs” section below.

Public Service jobs are an excellent way to advance your career, pursue stability, and maintain a work-life balance. These jobs give you the opportunity to serve in communities to make a real difference in peoples' lives. Public service jobs are available at all levels of government with those from all academic and professional backgrounds. If you would like to work for the federal government, the best place to start is USAjobs. This website hosts a complete repository of all federal jobs throughout the country. You can search for a job in your desired location or one that best suits your skill set. Other aggregator websites include PublicServiceCareers and GovernmentJobs, which host public service jobs from all levels of government throughout the country. 

If you already know which agencies hire students with your skill set and degrees, we advise that you subscribe to their job alerts. For example, if you are a student in the Economics department who is interested in working for the US Treasury or the Federal Reserve Bank, subscribe to their individual mailing lists. It would also be advisable to consider interning for one of these institutions before you apply. Internships within the federal government not only give you an idea of the day-to-day endeavors of your preferred agency, but it also establishes a track record of commitment to public service and a better understanding of the hiring process. 

Each state government also has its own job portal where they post state jobs. For example, if you are searching for jobs with the State of California, CalCareers is a great place to start. However, if you prefer to live in a specific city or county after you graduate, it is best to look for jobs on their individual job boards. For example, if you plan to live in Santa Barbara after graduation, local government jobs would be the City of Santa Barbara or the County of Santa Barbara’s job board are beneficial to utilize.

Careers in the non-profit sector provide great venues for those looking to make an impact in others’ lives, communities, and policies. Non-profit jobs can be found on national aggregator sites including:

Keep in mind that it is always beneficial to search for local non-profit jobs on local job boards. For example, to find positions in Santa Barbara, you can utilize the Nonprofit Resource Network of Santa Barbara or UCSB’s Handshake. Sometimes job boards of state-wide nonprofit associations, such as CalNonprofits, also are an advantageous place to start since they host jobs in areas wider than a locality but not as wide as the entire country. 

Industry Jobs

Industry jobs comprise the bulk of non-academic jobs. We recommend to start looking for jobs that overlap with your interest in industry and your subject or field of study. For example, SHEF (social science, humanities, education, and fine arts) grad students may start looking at jobs within the consulting, counseling, publishing, journalism, or technology industries. Once you pinpoint a specific industry, you can explore a deeper, niche subfield. For example, within the consulting field, you could explore your passion for GIS (geographic information systems) and its impact on food resources for developing countries. 

PRO TIP

We urge you to not let your fields of study in graduate school limit you in your industry job search. For example, consulting jobs are ideally suited to SHEF students with quantitative backgrounds, however it is also common to find graduate students with degrees in Philosophy or Sociology who are consultants. VersatilePhd offers some great insights (and examples) on how SHEF (and STEM) students can target their careers for a variety of jobs within industry.

Consulting is booming right now, and there are plenty of jobs available. (to find out what other industries are booming, check out Vault via Handshake, and Occupational Outlook Handbook. Consultancy is largely broken down into two subsets: firms that focus on accounting, and firms that focus on management consulting. The Big Four — KPMG, Deloitte, PriceWaterHouseCoopers, and Ernst and Young —  dominate the world of accountancy consulting. Meanwhile, the Big Three — McKinsey, Boston Consulting Group, and Bain and Company — dominate the world of management consulting.

While these seven firms hire many of the best and brightest aspiring consultants, they are not the only places for professionals interested in consultancy. Many local, regional, or boutique consultancy firms seek individuals who have specialized degrees or want to work in desired locations only. For example, if you are interested in environmental consulting in the Santa Barbara area, consider exploring options with GeoSyntec Consultants. If you are interested in working in economic consulting here in Santa Barbara, you may seek opportunities at firms like Robert D Neihaus Inc

For students who are well-versed in multiple languages, there are many jobs that are aptly suited to your skill set. As a bilingual or polyglot, you are well-suited for Translator, Interpreter, and Language Training roles. For positions teaching a foreign language, begin your search on the American Council on the Teaching of Foreign Languages job portal. Most states have individual language teachers’ associations which keep track of foreign language teaching jobs within the state. In California, the California Language Teachers’ Association has its own job portal. Competency in a language other than English is an asset to the nation, therefore there are plenty of jobs within the government (i.e: FBI, CIA, DIA, and the State Department) that require professionals with such knowledge and communicative abilities.


Learn More  

To learn more about jobs within the government which value multi-linguistic abilities, visit our Law + Government bookshelf for career-specific information.

 

For students studying psychological sciences, it is advantageous to conduct a brief overview of the paths available to people within your field on the American Psychological Association’s Non-Academic Career Path webpage. If you are looking for a job within social work, the National Association of Social Workers maintains a job portal for social work openings around the country. Such specialized associations exist in most fields and should be considered as a fair starting point when looking for jobs.

One of the main skills that graduate students acquire during their Ph.D. program is technical and academic writing. These skills are highly valued in creative industries such as writing, publishing, editorial, and marketing. To acquaint yourself with the variety and scope of jobs available in creative fields, begin with Mediabistro. This website hosts creative jobs for all three sectors: industry, publishing, and journalism. 

Every major university press requires academics that not only understand the language of the books they publish, but who can also effectively edit, critique, and market them. You might start by looking at the sample of jobs posted on the Association of American University Presses and Book Jobs. Career paths within publishing include: editing, press release writing, as well as scouting and recruitment. Even if you have minimal experience in the world of publishing, most major publishers have internships that you can apply for to gain real-world experience. These internships are also posted on the above two websites. 

Scientific Writing Careers

Careers in scientific writing are best suited for students interested in conveying complex scientific ideas to a wider audience. Scientific writers work for a wide variety of organizations including research institutions, non-profits, journals, and mass media outlets. Technical writing involves conveying a wide range of technical ideas towards real-world applications. It differs from science writing in that the audience is well-versed in the language and techniques but requires the application of academic breakthroughs to real-world problems or regulatory applications. 

For example, medical writers typically work either as in-house writers for pharmaceutical or biotech companies as well as medical education agencies serving those same types of clients. They produce a range of medical genres including regulatory documentation of clinical studies. 


Learn More

A great place to begin searching in the scientific writing industry is the National Association of Science Writers and American Medical Writers Association job boards.

Jobs in the sciences face a dilemma: they are plentiful yet targeted towards specific academic backgrounds. It is ideal to apply to jobs that best suit your existing interests, educational background and skill set. However, in order to better understand the types of jobs available in your field, we advise that you start searching on a broader platform which hosts ads for all kinds of science careers such as New Scientist, Science Careers, or Science Jobs
There are also specialized platforms for various subfields:

American graduate students are increasingly interested in pursuing careers abroad. Concurrently, the demand for American-trained talent is also accelerating. Holding a Master’s or Ph.D. from the US puts you at a critical advantage when pursuing rewarding careers abroad. However, students face three daunting hurdles that discourage them from moving abroad: finding a job in your country of interest, navigating the norms and cultures around the job search process, and navigating the visa process. 

We recommend that students begin their search by going through the various sections of GoinGlobal. They have information on norms, cultures, and etiquette around jobs in your country of interest as well as information regarding visa procedures and other aspects of relocating to that country. The website also hosts job ads from a variety of countries which can be further refined through customized sort filters that suit your job search needs. The International Job Center works in a similar fashion, but it only hosts job ads from different countries. 4International Careers and Jobs compiles a list of the most popular job boards and websites in a particular country or region and guides you to them.

If you are looking for jobs in a particular country, there are dedicated websites for that. For example, jobs in Ireland are hosted on Jobs Done Deal, and UK jobs on Targetjobs UK. You can also search for jobs in a particular industry or sector through its main job boards. For example, Idealist hosts international jobs in the government and public policy arenas. 


Learn More  

For more information to support our international graduate student population, please visit the International Students community page for resources and information regarding visa status, seeking jobs in the US, and more.