PhD Job Search Timeline and Tips

The PhD job search can be a confusing process for a variety of reasons. The doctoral graduation timeline is often unclear and may not be fully within your control. For industry positions, your mentors in academia may be unfamiliar with non-academic norms and expectations, but there are tools and resources that can help you prepare for this process and develop a plan of action.

Job Search Timeline

General peak PhD recruitment timelines for different fields and positions assuming June graduation. Keep in mind, these are approximations; timelines vary considerably by field.

Year-round Summer Fall Spring
Industry Biotech; Patent Law; Data Science; Government positions (the earlier the better) Management Consulting; Chemistry Finance; CS/Tech; Tech Consulting; Biotech Consulting leadership program applications; CS/Tech; Nonprofits; Science Communication
Academic/Faculty Applications start to open for faculty positions Applications due (summer for some) Smaller school interviews late-fall Faculty interviews early to mid-spring
Postdocs Most postdoc positions Government; National Labs


When should I start my job search? What if I missed peak recruitment times?

The job search varies widely in process, norms, and expectations. It is never too early to research your interest areas by searching online, attending events, and initiating informal career conversations. Even if you missed the peak recruiting season for your field, you can continue to inquire about opportunities through networking and online job search websites.

What if I am graduating in December?

Keep in mind that the start date of a position can often be negotiated. Also, the needs of employers vary so positions can open or start on a more flexible timeline.

Have more questions?

Make an appointment with CAPD.

Job Search Tips

  • Identify your skills, interests, and values. PhD candidates have a unique background and blend of skills that may be transferable to a variety of industries. It’s helpful to start your career search with a self-assessment to identify what motivates you, what interests you, and what skills (both technical and interpersonal) you possess. Taking the time to reflect on these questions will allow you to build stronger resumes, write more compelling cover letters, and interview with focus and confidence.
    • Helpful self-assessment tools: Various assessment tools are available that were made with PhDs in mind. These include: MyIDP (Individual Development Plan), ChemIDP, and ImaginePhD.
    • Network early and often. It’s never too early to network, gather information, and try on different roles or career paths. Anytime during your graduate career, it’s helpful to attend career fairs and information sessions of companies that interest you. You can also learn more about specific industries through informational interviews or by applying for summer internships and IAP micro-internships.
    • Helpful networking tools: MIT Alumni Advisors Hub (conduct informational interviews or career conversations with MIT alumni working in various industries)
  • The job search is best done as a collaborative process. Do not feel that you have to tackle your job search on your own. When in doubt, ask for help from your advisor, your department, and of course, CAPD is always happy to assist you in this process.
  • Other Resources