Transferable Skills for PhD Career Paths

Transferable skills are a common currency across all job areas that hire PhDs.

Graduate and postdoctoral experience equips you with both specialized skills and transferable skills:
Specialized skills are ones that are specific to your research, like a surgical procedure, or imaging technique, or custom data analysis.
Transferable skills are ones that can be applied outside your research, like your ability to explain complex things, or break big problems down into smaller ones, or manage long-term projects.

While the specialized skills you use will change based on the work you are doing, transferable skills will help you get your work done no matter what project, field, or even job sector you are working in. PhD careers may or may not require the specialized skills you develop in your PhD, but they will definitely use your transferable skills. Transferable skills are a common currency across all job areas that hire PhDs, and they're in increasing demand! That’s why we want students and postdocs to be aware of transferable skills and intentionally develop them.

To understand how transferable skills figure in PhD jobs, we’re asking UCSF alumni across professional fields (columns) how they use transferable skills (rows). Each month we gather this information from the panelists in our Alumni Career Paths series. These professionals indicate which skills are most important in their jobs and provide examples of how they apply those skills. Each number in the table indicates how many professionals selected that transferable skill as important. Click on a number to read examples of how those professionals use that transferable skill.

  Data Science Consulting Science Communication Academia Nonprofits Science Policy Regulatory and Clinical Affairs Field Science Public Sector
  n=2 n=4 n=3 n=5 n=2 n=3 n=2 n=3 n=3
Communication 2 3 3 4 2 3 2 2 3
Empathy 2 1 1 3   1   1  
Integrity   1   2 1 2 1 1 1
Interpreting Information 2 3 2 3   2 1   1
Managing Up/Down 1 1   2 1 2 2 1 1
Motivation 2 1   2   2 1 1  
Project Management 1 2   4 2 3 1 2 1
Strategic Thinking   3 2 4 2 2 2   2
Teamwork 2 3 2 5 2 3 1 3 3
Understanding the Scientific Enterprise 1   1 5 1 2 1 1