Career patterns and competences of PhDs in science and engineering

  • Hsing-Fen Lee

Student thesis: Phd


Based on a retrospective survey of science and engineering (S&E) PhDs from a UK research-based university with 7-10 years job histories and the design-based non-parametric analysing methods, this thesis drew on theories on careers, organisational knowledge and learning and labour markets to explore the interrelationship between knowledge flow and careers of science and engineering PhDs. The results showed that employment outside the conventional technical occupations is the main destination for the survey respondents. This labour market segment is not only successful at retaining its members, but is also the destination of the other career types. Furthermore, S&E PhDs in the conventional technical occupations draw quite a lot of knowledge from S&E doctoral training in their jobs, even from the subject-specific dimension of it. By contrast, members in employment outside the conventional technical occupations are less likely to perceive knowledge and skills from doctoral training to be useful in their jobs, and when they do, the emphasis is more on general analytical skills and problem solving capabilities.The results also revealed the distinctive labour market features of different S&E PhD labour market segments: the sharp contrast of the core and peripheral workers in academic/public research, the highly hybrid labour market form in employment outside the conventional technical occupations and the relatively more structured labour market features in technical positions in private sector manufacturing. Regardless of the differences, nonetheless, as a whole, organisational life is still a prominent feature of the S&E PhD labour markets. Furthermore, the extent to which fluid job mobility contributes to S&E PhDs' individual knowledge flow depends on the types of knowledge under discussion. The emerging occupations associated with the knowledge economy are characterised by high inter-organisational mobility and by an emphasis of sector-specific and general knowledge. However, even for sector-specific and general knowledge, we have demonstrated that to a certain extent, these types of knowledge and skills are sticky to organisations. Hence, S&E PhD experts and knowledge workers' careers and individual knowledge flow are not really boundaryless but moderately localised within organisations.
Date of Award31 Dec 2011
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • The University of Manchester
SupervisorMarcela Miozzo (Supervisor) & Philippe Laredo (Supervisor)


  • PhD, competence, career, knowledge, science and engineering

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