Careers in social science

Social science postgraduate studies give you the skills to work in a range of jobs across different sectors. The majority take employment within academia, but many postgraduates find work in other sectors.

What they do

Data from the Longitudinal Survey of the Destinations of Leavers of Higher Education show that:

  • Six months after graduating, 66 per cent were in employment in the UK and 17 per cent were working overseas – increasing over three years to 71 per cent and 18 per cent, respectively
  • 58 different career paths were described by 255 social sciences respondents, with 63 per cent following five common pathways over the survey period
  • Teaching and lecturing in higher education was by far the most common employment for social sciences respondents (40 per cent, increasing to 42 per cent over three years), and almost a third stayed in this employment throughout the survey period (31 per cent)
  • Most social science respondents were working as lecturers (77 per cent), some were in professorial posts (12 per cent), and a few were working as teaching assistants (3 per cent)
  • 10 per cent of social sciences respondents were employed in other common doctoral occupations throughout the three years.
  • (Figures from the 2011 Vitae report 'What do researchers do? Career paths of doctoral graduates')

Where they work

Although academia is the sector where most graduates find employment, the skills acquired through social science studies can be used in many types of employment - a valuable asset not least in today’s job market. Career options for social science graduates include:

  • Teaching
  • Research
  • Central and local government
  • Politics
  • Public services (for instance civil and diplomatic services, police and prison services)
  • Health and social care
  • Banking and finance
  • Business management
  • Advertising and marketing
  • Journalism and broadcasting
  • Accountancy
  • Law
  • Campaigning

Types of work entered by UK-domiciled social sciences doctoral graduates (2007) employed in the UK, based on Standard Occupational Classifications:

Postgraduate careers - pie chart

Chart from the 2009 Vitae report What do researchers do? First destinations of doctoral graduates by subject , based on data from the HESA Destinations of Leavers from Higher Education Surveys 2004-2008.

The skills you acquire

Social science postgraduate study equips you for a range of jobs - not least important in today's job market. Among the skills you gain are:

  • putting together reasoned arguments and question assumptions
  • understanding the processes of change in society and its institutions
  • drawing together, analysing and critically evaluating information
  • communicating concisely, clearly and accurately with others
  • using ICT to research, identify and present information
  • managing time and taking on responsibility for your own development
  • responding positively to critical feedback
  • interpreting, using and evaluating data.

See former postgraduates' career stories