Careers outside of academia for humanities and social science researchers: charities and NGOs

Are you a social sciences or humanities postgraduate interested in pursuing a research career, but not sure if academia is the right path right for you? Read on to find out more about other opportunities for using your research skills…

A large number of humanities and social science Masters and PhD students go on to work in research capacities outside academia. This is the third in a short series of blog posts exploring some of the other opportunities available. This post will focus on opportunities in charities and NGOs.

Charities and NGOs need employees with strong research skills that can be applied in various ways to help the organisation achieve its mission – from building an evidence base for advocacy work, to monitoring and evaluating the activities of the organisation to see where improvements can be made.

It’s worth being aware that many of the research-focused roles in this sector won’t necessarily have ‘researcher’ or ‘analyst’ in the job title. So you may have to think creatively and read a few different job descriptions to get an idea of roles where you can apply your research skills. Key words to look out for could include: ‘monitoring’, ‘evaluation’, ‘impact’ and ‘policy’. Communication skills are often a key requirement for these roles, so include examples of your effective communication and interpersonal skills in your application.

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Careers outside of academia for humanities and social science researchers: government and parliament

Are you a social sciences or humanities postgraduate interested in pursuing a research career, but not sure if academia is the right path right for you? Read on to find out more about other opportunities for using your research skills…

A large number of humanities and social science Masters and PhD students go on to work in research capacities outside academia. This is the first in a short series of blog posts exploring some of the other opportunities available. This post will focus on opportunities in UK government and parliament.

Working in a research role in government provides an opportunity to work on things that really matter. These roles can be challenging as the pace of work is often very fast, which sometimes means that you are unable to measure the impact of one intervention before it changes again! You may also get asked by colleagues for evidence that doesn’t really exist and/or on areas they may not be a specialist in, so communication is often a key skill requirement, alongside your strong research abilities.

Researchers in this sector are valued for their excellent research skills, which often takes precedence over their specialist subject knowledge (unless the latter is relevant to a specific role). These skills could include: understanding the ‘robustness’ of research, qualitative or quantitative analytical skills, handling large data sets (with data science a growing area in this sector), and experience of different research methods. It’s therefore important to highlight your research skills when making your application – don’t assume the recruiter will know what research experience you have just because you have a Masters or PhD!

Working in the Civil Service

Social scientists and humanities researchers are employed in a range of roles across government departments and agencies. In some cases, researchers are employed within particular departments (such as education or housing), for example in ‘Analyst’ roles. Alternatively, they may work in central research services that provide experienced researchers to work on projects with other departments across the civil service. Examples of these central services include:

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I’m doing a History MA … but what NEXT?

Consider which of the following 3 statements best describes you:

  1. I am passionate about History, I have started an MA with a view to progressing on to a PhD and a career in Academia
  2. After my MA I would like to find a job within ‘History’ and use the knowledge that my MA will give me
  3. I enjoy History – the process, the skillset & the discipline of History, but I do not particularly see myself working within History after I finish my Masters

Natural History Museum, Vienna, Austria

So, if a PhD is your goal, talk to Academics and current PhD students… how did they make their choices & secure their place. Start to explore possible research areas. Identify universities that excel in research in your area of interest, investigate their opportunities and possible supervisors, as well as application deadlines.  Through your History in Action module, the School of History can provide further support and advice on applying for a PhD.

If you think you want to work within ‘History’ in some way, consider what that might look like…

  • Do you want to use the specific expertise of your Masters’ modules… if so, what types of organisations would be interested that expertise? For example if you are studying ‘Anti-semitism and The Holocaust’ or ‘Modern Jewish History and Culture’, working for the Holocaust Memorial Day Trust or The Jewish Museum would be an example of direct relevance.  Identify organisations that interest you and see if you can get work experience/work shadowing there, in order to help you understand what kind of jobs are available and how you might fit in.
  • Or, if you want to work in a context that is just broadly historical… what does that mean to you… Museums? Heritage?  Such organisations employ people in all kinds of jobs… do you want to work in curation or exhibitions so that you are directly involved in the exhibits?  Or actually, would it be enough to simply be in that historical/cultural environment and you would be happy to work for example in marketing, development, events etc.?  Again… the best way to find out what roles exist and might suit you, is to get experience… which in this sector, is usually by volunteering.

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Welcome to life as a postgrad

Congratulations at being awarded a place on your Masters programme!  Well done & welcome to postgrad life at QMUL.

Have you chosen your modules yet? It may seem weird, but as you head off to those first lectures & tutorials that will ultimately lead to your postgraduate degree, we want to challenge you to also be thinking ‘…and what next?’, as the next 12 months will fly by. 

Make sure that early in the academic year, you actually schedule time to research and explore your future options; to attend careers & departmental events; to identify your skills & values; to understand the key skills required for careers that interest you; and to take the time to build a CV that demonstrates you have those skills. 

Thinking about ‘what next’ does not mean that you have to make decisions now, but it does mean that if you do not have much experience or knowledge of graduate work, you need to start exploring & building experience now. It is much easier to first make contact with an interesting organisation by writing to say: ‘I am a MA student at QMUL and really interested in exploring a career in XXXXXXX, I wondered if there would be an opportunity for me to work-shadow one of your colleagues for a few days’, rather than ‘I am a Masters graduate from QM, do you have any jobs’

If you have limited work experience, don’t spend time worrying if any new work experience opportunity is definitely ‘relevant’… if it interests you, just try it… most of us learn best through experiences and it is very difficult to choose a career if you have not had experience of working in different contexts.  If you are thinking of a PhD, take any opportunity to talk to academics specialising in areas of interest, use departmental contacts to speak to current PhD students and check application deadlines.

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Practical tips for international postgrads looking for work in the UK

international (1)With strict visa regulations, it can be difficult for international students to secure a graduate role in the UK. However, it is not impossible and we have many international alumni who have successfully found interesting graduate roles here. As a postgraduate student, you only have one year during which you can gain valuable work experience and focus on your job hunt, while at the same time concentrating on your studies. This can be a challenging task and it is therefore helpful to have a good understanding of the local employment situation and requirements, so you can effectively manage your time throughout your studies.

We will mainly focus on the switch from a tier 4 to a tier 2 visa, which is an employer sponsored visa, but keep in mind that there are other visas that may be applicable in your individual case.

So, where can you find graduate roles in the UK?

The good news is that there are around 30,000 employers registered to sponsor tier 2 visas. The full list can be found here and a searchable list here. If you see a job that you like, it can be a good idea to check these lists first in order to find out whether the employer would be able to hire you. Doing this research will save you some valuable time and help to avoid potential frustration.

Now, let’s look at some top tips that may help you land that UK graduate role: 

Get some London based work experience – Getting work experience in the UK, during your studies or holidays, will enhance your CV and increase your chances of landing a role upon graduation. This could be in the form of volunteering or temping (keeping in mind hourly work restrictions relating to your individual visa).

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Interested in postdoctoral study and considering your funding options?

Are you contemplating postdoctoral study and considering your funding options?  If so, you might be interested in attending some of the events planned for Fellowship MAY!

Fellowship Day began as an event in the School of Medicine and Dentistry more than a decade ago, and invited representatives from the major Research Councils, Charities and Trusts to come and speak about funding opportunities available for postdocs and early-career researchers.

This year’s event will change slightly in that it will be a series of talks, seminars and funding-related workshops taking place at Mile End, Whitechapel and Charterhouse Square campuses, running from 8-19 May 2017. The schedule for Fellowship MAY! is available below. 

To book on to these sessions, visit our bookings page cpdbookings.qmul.ac.uk, login and search for ‘FM‘ in the course code field.  This will list all Fellowship MAY! workshops.  If you don’t yet have a cpdbookings account, you can register here.

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Master’s: Balancing work and studies

My name is Natasha and I am currently undertaking MA History – Medieval and Renaissance pathway at QMUL; I also took my BA in Medieval History at QMUL. Additionally, I work part-time for Careers & Enterprise as an Employer Engagement Assistant. Below are my thoughts on working and studying part-time.

Balancing work & studies

After some deliberating, I decided to study for my Master’s degree part-time. I knew that I had to find a way to support myself financially, particularly if I wanted to stay living in London; but I knew that studying full-time and working part-time wasn’t the best idea. I did not see any point in rushing through my studies and not giving it my all as working would inevitably be an obstacle – and even now, balancing work and studies is difficult. It is very important to plan your time wisely: make sure that on the days that you aren’t working, you have a study plan for what you want – and need – to achieve on those days when you are focusing solely on your Master’s. Sometimes this isn’t easy, particularly if you cannot find the motivation, or you have a day where you turn up no results – but persevere and take the time to re-charge your batteries, it is certainly easy to over-do things.

Challenges

Which leads me nicely to the challenges. Trust me when I tell you that your work/life balance will take a real dip. When I am not working, I use my ‘free’ time to study, and this means that I find it hard to stay in contact and socialise with friends and family. This really is something to be aware of as you, as well as them, will feel isolated. But, by planning your time effectively, it is entirely possible to give yourself a few hours off to let your hair down – and this is essential, particularly for your own well-being.

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