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Meta-Academic Careers

Definition – professions or vocations in which academic research experience provides a competitive advantage.

Looking to move away from research, but still want to make use of your academic experience? There are certain professions which may allow you to put your research skillset to work, and in some cases also remain close to the academy.

You will still need to convince them that you are more than just an expert in one field. The Researcher Development Framework can help you do this, and St Andrews meta-academic graduates can be tracked down for their advice through Saint Connect and LinkedIn.

Academic Publishing

Having worked within the academic publication system, you may be well placed to make a career there. The publishing houses, university presses and learned societies who have peer-reviewed and accepted your papers, monographs and book chapters may wish to employ editors, technical and creative staff with first-hand experience of academic life.

Academic Support

The chances are you have already met a former researcher working in academic support, at St Andrews or elsewhere. Career Services, Researcher Development (skills training), Funding Support and Alumni Relations are a few areas to consider. This route can be very beneficial for academic couples looking to juggle one partner’s academic career with another moving away from research.


Varied, well-rewarded and well-travelled, consultancy offers an opportunity to apply your problem-solving and analytical abilities on behalf of your clients. You will have stiff competition from undergraduates, but many large consultancies make provision for higher-degree holders in their recruitment materials. Your specialist knowledge may also allow you to bring individual expertise. Whether in management, technical, environmental or other consulting fields, business acumen will be well-appreciated in this sector.

Funding Providers

Research Councils, charitable bodies (eg Wellcome Trust, Leverhulme Trust) and government offices may wish to employ researchers as portfolio managers – those who field requests for funding, convene funding review panels and disseminate funds. Within the UK, you have the advantage of a single website used by all seven research councils to advertise their vacancies.

Intellectual Property

Patent and Trademark attorneys craft protection in law for the inventions and brands created by individuals and companies. The research skills, dedication and attention to detail required in a research career are also essential in IP (patent law also requires a scientific background). If you are prepared for some more training, IP might be the path for you.

Knowledge Exchange

At the boundary between universities and their industrial collaborators sit the knowledge exchange professionals. These staff act as liaison between the university and companies wishing to work with it. They also work with Intellectual Property professionals to protect university-owned brands and innovations. Commercial awareness, academic administration and strong people skills are all recommended.

Learned Societies

The professional body which has supported you through your research career may also turn out to be a future employer. If you wish to continue promoting your subject on a national level, you will need to keep abreast of vacancies posted by individual societies. Outreach, Policy, Publishing and Member Support are all possible means of exploiting your research background.


A wide range of routes into primary and secondary teaching exist in the UK, including one aimed specifically at PhD holders. Your academic expertise can provide you with a competitive edge, but of course your front-line and classroom teaching skills will be under due scrutiny. Don’t assume that a PhD alone will carry this for you.

Think Tanks

Are you more politically minded? Think tanks gather data and conduct research on behalf of political lobby groups, in order to influence the direction of government policy. Extremely varied in size and hiring style, Think Tanks can offer a means of channelling your research skills in a new direction.