Information: Non academic career paths

If you wants to orient yourself outside of research and academia as a junior researcher, the job market outside of publicly funded research often seems confusing or even inaccessible. The occupational fields and opportunities that are open are not easily recognizable. At the same time, there are many opportunities, especially for well-trained academics. Career options can be found in all sectors.

Karriereperspektiven für Postdocs


There is a lot of information on the Internet regarding career prospects and the non-academic application process; here is a selection of information and German websites for academics:

How do I apply as a scientist in the business sector?

When young researchers apply for research and development positions in companies, they often enter an unknown world. The following tips will help you to make your application an admission ticket: academics-bewerbung-forschung-und-entwicklung

Career oriented networks

Salary summaries

Employer evaluation

Competences in general

Competencies are central technical terms for personnel managers and recruiters, which have high value in application procedures. Not only do they appear in job advertisements, you also need to be able to explain your core competencies using examples. However, even a weakness is often asked in job interviews.

You can acquire your qualifications and competencies through:

  • your role in science
  • jobs/internships
  • hobbies
  • voluntary work

It is normal to not be experienced in the same way in every competency, so you can classify yourself as a beginner, experienced or expert.

Typical Postdoc Competencies

According to employers, young researchers have the following skills: 1

  • Analysis skills
  • Foreign languages
  • Leadership (official/unofficial with regard to temporary staff, working group, etc.)
  • Fundraising
  • Information management
  • Intercultural skills
  • Presentation skills
  • Project management
  • Text writing, writing skills
  • Research

Do you know your competencies?


Procedure of the non-academic (German) application process 

Although each employer can change the application process for their own needs, a fixed structure is usually recognizable: karrierebibel-bewerbungsprozess

Here you will find guidelines for the usual documents for non-academic applications: karrierebibel-bewerbung

Always follow the instructions in the job posting. If you have any questions about the application process, please contact the contact person mentioned in the job posting.

The non-university job market follows different laws than the academic job market. It is important to find out in advance, what possibilities there are and what rules apply here. Thus, the application procedure outside academia differs significantly in terms of procedures, but also in terms of application standards. Publications, teaching and third-party funding are less important than professional and personal skills. In order to be appealing for non-research employers, they must be clearly defined in the application and in the interview.

A German application in the field of free economy usually consists of a cover letter, curriculum vitae with application picture and the relevant certificates, such as degree, doctorate, job references, and further education certificates. Normally, you should not send the list of publications with your application! An exception to this rule are, for example, positions related to research and development, where a publication list makes sense.

For an application, you should focus intensively on (industry-related) rules and international differences. The challenge is to provide the future employer with a suitable application with the desired information on a maximum of 2 to 3 pages, so that you can be selected from possibly numerous applications for an interview. Our workshops in the field of Human Resources Development training: Wissenschaft und Forschung (Science and Research) offer you the opportunity to optimize your written documents..

Further Links

Job interview

If you successfully pass the first hurdle of the written application and are invited for an interview, thorough preparation will help to keep the nervousness under control.

In a job interview, you will be required to be aware of self-marketing and to communicate strategically. You can analyze and expand these skills in one of our workshops.

Interviews have a certain pattern. First the applicant is greeted with small talk, then you are invited to tell something about yourself, then the employer introduces himself as a company and the job - after which you have the opportunity to ask your questions - and finally you clarify what to do nextt.

For various positions or (mostly large/international) companies there are additional elements in the application process, such as a (research) project presentation or e.g. assessment center..

If you are planning to compete in the international job market, you have to inform yourself in advance. Despite globalization and increasingly mobile workers, the habits in the various labor markets are still quite different. Good knowledge of intercultural differences is indispensable.

Tips for international application procedures, an international business ("non-academic") CV and interview preparation can be found here: karrierebibel-bewerben-im-ausland

Intercultural differences in CVs as a download.

Non-academic career paths
UniWiND-Spezial: Perspektiven nach der Promotion. Berufswege außerhalb der WissenschaftTeil 1: 13 Porträt: (2018)

UniWiND-Spezial: Perspektiven nach der Promotion. Berufswege außerhalb der WissenschaftTeil 2: Arbeitgeber im Gespräch (2018)

Mirjam Müller, Wissenschaftscoach Karriere nach der Wissenschaft. Alternative Berufswege für Promovierte (2017); ISBN 978-3-593-50716-3; Campus Verlag Frankfurt / New York

Susan Basalla, Maggie Debelius So what are you going to do with that? Finding careers outside academia (2014), Chicago Press

Barbara Hoffbauer, Berufsziel Life Sciences. Ein Karriere-Wegweiser(2011), Spektrum Akademischer Verlag.


International career paths:
Dr. Staci McIntosh, Job Search Passport: Using Industry Secrets to Write Applications, Resumes and Cover Letters (One Hour Handbook Series) (2017).


German Application documents
Jürgen Hesse; Hans Christian Schrader, Bewerbung für Hochschulabsolventen. Vorbereitung, Recherche und Zusammenstellen der Unterlagen (2017). Stark Verlagsgesellschaft mbH&Co