Hanging tough: post-PhD researchers dealing with career uncertainty

Isabelle Skakni, María del Carmen Calatrava Moreno, Mariona Corcelles Seuba, Lynn McAlpine

    Research output: Indexed journal article Articlepeer-review

    33 Citations (Scopus)


    This study examines the impact of career uncertainty on post-PhD researchers’ experiences. Drawing on an identity-trajectory approach and a qualitative design, we analysed experiences of post-PhDs from the UK and Switzerland. Our findings show that in the course of their work experiences, career uncertainty takes two different forms: intellectual uncertainty and occupational uncertainty. On a daily basis, both forms strongly impact the participants’ work and personal lives and can limit their ability to plan for the future, restrict their developing research expertise and networks and induce tension in trying to reconcile work and personal lives. While often struggling with a blurred institutional status, participants ‘hang tough’ despite their uncertain situation, notably by clinging to the academic researcher identity. Contributing to the previous work on the increasing casualisation of post-PhD positions and the resulting challenges, our study offers new insights into how different aspects of career uncertainty influence post-PhDs’ work and identity.

    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)1489-1503
    Number of pages15
    JournalHigher Education Research and Development
    Issue number7
    Publication statusPublished - 10 Nov 2019


    • Post-PhD researchers
    • career development
    • career uncertainty
    • identity


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