New career paths are opening up to doctors

Submitted on Wed, 12/12/2018 - 10:38
Mariska Roelofs, originally from the Netherlands, has had a 16-year career working as an occupational psychologist in both the private and public sector. She has designed the career coaching courses of the Tohtos programme. “Doctors have many valuable skills that interest employers,” she says.
Mariska Roelofs, originally from the Netherlands, has had a 16-year career working as an occupational psychologist in both the private and public sector. She has designed the career coaching courses of the Tohtos programme. “Doctors have many valuable skills that interest employers,” she says. 

Only 10% of doctors have a permanent career in the academia.

Text: Tiina Lankinen
Photograph: Jonne Renvall

Project management skills, the ability to process vast amounts of information, self-discipline and, above all, a sharp and analytic mind. These competencies of doctors who graduate from universities are also sought outside the academia.

“It is no longer self-evident that doctoral graduates continue their careers in the academia working as researchers or professors. First, there are not so many academic posts available anymore and, secondly, doctors also have good career opportunities elsewhere,” says Career Specialist Mariska Roelofs from the University of Tampere.

According to a report by the Academy of Finland (2017), the largest sector employing doctors is universities where 37% of employed doctors, who had graduated in 2012 or earlier, had their jobs.

Slightly more than 25% of the doctors worked in public sector organisations and just over 25% in the private sector. Less than 10% worked in state research institutes.

Although universities employ a lot of doctors in the post-doctoral years, the jobs are often short-term.

“According to international studies and depending on the country, only between 10 to 20% of doctors remain in permanent employment and get promoted to the top jobs at universities,” Roelofs says.

Roelofs works in the Tohtos project, which promotes the recruitment of doctoral researchers to non-traditional academic fields. Tohtos – developing the working life relevance of doctoral training  –  is a national project involving the universities of Eastern Finland, Tampere, Turku, Vaasa and Oulu. The funding comes from the European Social Fund (ESF).

Career coaching helps future doctors to find interesting career paths also outside the university.
It is very important that the doctoral researchers learn about the options that are open to them already at the beginning of their postgraduate studies. At the same time, they are coached to recognise their own strengths. The expertise of doctors is not just limited to know-how in a particular discipline or research topic.

“Doctors have many valuable skills that interest employers. They have a sharp, analytic mind and problem-solving abilities,” Roelofs points out.

Writing the doctoral dissertation is a big endeavour that requires good project management skills, dedicated work and self-discipline. Doctors also have the ability to differentiate essential things from large amounts of information and see the connections underpinning larger contexts.

Roelofs has noticed that some of the doctoral researchers may think that they have nothing to offer to other employers.

“It is a pity if doctors’ awareness of their own skills only awakens after they have completed the study required for the doctoral dissertation,” Roelofs points out.

However, if doctoral researchers realised early on they had other opportunities, they could orient themselves, create networks both within and outside the university, and search for information on interesting jobs.

“Plan A can be to have a research career and reach the top as a researcher in a particular field. At the same time, however, it’s good to keep an eye on other opportunities and be open to them,” Roelofs adds.


Tip: The next Tohtos career coaching course will start in January 2019. Tohtos online research.uta.fi/tohtos

Doctors in numbers
•    Since the early 1990s, the number of doctoral degrees has grown in Finland even though the growth stabilised in the 2000s.
•    In 2015, 1,881 doctoral degrees were awarded in Finland.
•    At the end of 2017, the University of Tampere had 1,519 postgraduate students. In the same year, 107 doctors graduated from the University.
The Academy of Finland’s report The role of doctoral degree holders in society (2017) was used as a source.