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Pursuing an analyst career after your PhD.

An analyst is a term which covers a broad set of skills and career options. As a PhD student, analytical skills and problem-solving are your key strengths. Understanding how these skills apply to non-academic analyst jobs will uncover some exciting opportunities.

PhDs across the board, irrespective of discipline, are known for developing and building a core set of skills. For instance, all PhD students end up with incredible self-resilience, excellent problem-solving skills, superb project management, along with many more. Within this post we’re going to focus on the ‘analytical’ skills that PhD students also develop. Having great analytical skills really sets you up for a range of careers. An analyst is a relatively broad term, which is a positive as it gives you breadth and opportunity to leverage your PhD to a range of roles. In this post we’ll explore what we truly mean by analytical skills as well as exploring a few different types careers which may be of interest.

Firstly, having adept analytical skills shouldn’t feel surprising. It’s one of those core transferable skills you develop during your PhD. One type of analysis during your PhD might be data specific. Programmes like SPSS, STATA, Python, R, MATLAB, and many others may be your go to tool as an ‘analyst’ when it comes to crunching the numbers. Certainly, this is one type of analysis which can help transition you into careers like data science, data analysis and basically any role that processes or manages data.

This is maybe one of the more obvious transferable skills to map onto post-PhD careers, and knowing how to leverage your data skills is certainly an asset you may want to consider. With the current landscape of the job/labour market, having a comprehensive understanding of programming languages and how to work with data in an effective way puts you in a great position as these skills are highly sought after within industry. Furthermore, being a data analyst is a modern and evolving career. With such a dramatic rise in data skills and organisations obtaining more data, it could really be a prosperous and exciting place to be. Getting hands on with data in these kind of roles may also provide a nice Segway or career transition into other sectors such as tech.

Beyond data and technology there remains a plethora of other opportunities following your PhD. Positions within market research also seek to obtain and recruit analysts. In this sense, it still may be data driven, but often this will be slightly different. If you’re more into your qualitative research or making sense of interviews or peoples lived experiences, market research may be the place for you. Here, you get to plan and organise research – a skill you’re likely to excel at given that a PhD is the process of learning how to conduct and execute good research. Additionally, being able to consolidate a lot of market research findings into reports and be able to communicate this back to those interested is another skill you’re likely to already have.

Publications, a thesis, and even poster presentations have provided you with the perfect collection of skills required for a market research analyst. Market research also seeks to facilitate change as it helps to develop strategies or business-related decisions. Your PhD in and of itself will mirror this component. All PhDs seek to develop and build upon the research that has come before. Here, your thesis should aim to be a piece of work that extends the current evidence base and our understanding of a particular topic. In essence, you’re having to take your research findings and develop strategies and insights that help facilitate change/improvements to the way we live our lives or understand a field. You must connect your research to something impactful and tangible. This again is a skill required for a market research analyst.

Taking the ideas of having to develop strategies and insights further, other analyst roles may also be relevant. An intelligence analyst or a business analyst are popular terms that get thrown around a lot. You can do a quick search on LinkedIn or Glassdoor to really see how common these terms are. As before, these analyst roles seek to compile and consolidate vast information into one coherent story. Much of the skills needed for these roles will overlap with a lot of your PhD journey, having to read previous publications and past literature to be able to understand a field and synthesise it all will be extremely applicable to these kinds of roles. Problem-solving and analytical skills are often what sets PhDs head and shoulders above the rest. This is also why consultancy is such a popular career option for PhD students.

Business and intelligence analyst roles are likely to feel very similar to consultancy positions, where you’re having to problems-solve, synthesise, and adapt to complex problems on a routine basis. You don’t necessarily need field/domain specific knowledge, you just need to know how to adapt and solve things that are unfamiliar to you. A journey, you as a PhD student, should know all too well. Be mindful of business analyst positions as some (not all) require data skills in programmes like SQL. Generally, these aren’t difficult to learn, but if you do not have a strong data background from your PhD (which is completely understandable), be sure to check the required skills and opt for business analyst roles that are less ‘data’ heavy.

These are just a very quick summary of potential analyst roles or ‘buzz words’ you might want to consider. Of course, you have the skills needed to excel in these analyst roles, but the key thing is that you’re able to communicate and demonstrate this at an interview or within your CV. As mentioned consistently throughout this blog, spend less time emphasising your topic/discipline knowledge, and more time highlighting your versatility and diverse skill set. If you currently enjoy analysing problems and synthesising information, maybe an analyst role is for you. This post has touched on a few key buzz words, but you may also want to try searching other analyst terms as well. Jobs may list other analyst roles with these titles:

  • Market research analyst
  • Data analyst
  • Research analyst
  • Business analyst
  • Intelligence analyst
  • Business intelligence analyst
  • Quantitative analyst
  • Operations analyst
  • Insight analyst
  • Analyst
  • Strategy analyst

The list continues and is likely to change over time. If you like the idea of being an analyst in some capacity, the question isn’t really ‘can I be an analyst?’, it’s more about what type of analysis you want to do! An analyst is a broad and all-encompassing term. Be sure to pick a role or career that you’re likely to enjoy and will move you towards your life values. Happy hunting and try not to get overwhelmed by the sheer number of opportunities out there.


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