Life after PIK


Along the various career paths of PIK's PhD graduates


In 2018 PIK’s Alumni programme performed an internal study looking at the career paths of former PIK PhD graduates. For this we used only data available from publicly available sources such as websites. We identified 95 young scientists who obtained their doctorates between 2007 and 2016.

Altogether over 200 young scientists have completed their doctorates at PIK since the institute was founded in 1992. We are naturally keen to stay in touch with these young researchers and are proud of their successes!

The reasons for doing the study were to

  • Reconnect with a very important group of former PIK researchers to help build up an alumni network
  • Analyse the career pathways of people who did their doctorates at PIK and to use this information to support training and career development initiatives at the institute.


We basically examined:

1) Which categories of employment the PhD graduates went into when they left PIK and which categories they were working in 2018

2) What positions they had had during their career and what was the spread of positions at the time of the study

3) Where they moved to after their doctorates and where they were at the time of the study

4) The extent of their connectedness with PIK.

Although the methodological limitations mean the results should be interpreted with caution, the study delivered a broad overview of career pathways.


1) Where did they go?

For our study we defined the following categories of employment: academia (research institution and university), government agency, consultancy/thinktank, NGO/trust, private sector, and freelance. We then looked to see which category the graduates were working in at one year, five years and seven years after obtaining their doctorate.

At one year after their doctoral defence, over three-quarters of the PhD graduates were working in academia (research institution or university). Of those, over half were in fact still at PIK.

At five and seven years after their defence the majority of PIK PhD graduates were still in academia. A smaller share of the graduates were still working at PIK, while the shares of those working in other areas, particularly in governmental agencies or consultancy/thinktanks, increased.

At the time of the study in 2018, 70% of the group as a whole were working in academia.

Of the 30% not working in academia, most worked in governmental agencies or in the category consultancy/thinktanks. Only a few worked for NGOs or in the private sector.


2) What positions did they have?

We wanted to see how many of the sample group had achieved leading positions. We defined categories of positions and looked at the number of PhD graduates in each category at one, five and seven years after obtaining their doctorate. We were aware that using only publicly available information from websites, etc., would deliver not completely accurate results.

At one year after their PhD most of the graduates were working as regular (research) staff. At 5 and 7 years after their defence about two-thirds still identified themselves as regular staff, while the shares of those in other positions increased.

At the time of the study in 2018, 12.6% of the whole group were working as assistant professor, junior professor, lecturer or professor; of these, there were proportionally more women than men. However, on the whole women were less likely to identify themselves as group leaders.

A few people were head of their respective organisation, be it a private company, thinktank or NGO/trust. This group includeed both men and women.


3) Where did they move to?

We looked at where the PhD graduates were one year after their defence, and found that around a third had remained at PIK. Roughly a third had moved to new jobs in the Berlin-Potsdam region, while the remaining third had moved to other cities in Germany or abroad (mostly in other European countries).

Looking at where the graduates were at the time of the study, we found that around three-quarters of them lived in Germany - most of them in the Berlin-Potsdam region. 15% lived in other European countries and 7% in other parts of the world.

We were struck by the fact that the Berlin-Potsdam region seemed to be particularly popular with PIK PhD graduates. There were several cases of people returning to PIK or to the region.


4) How connected were they with PIK?

We found that many of the PhD graduates retained an affiliation with an academic institution, even when they worked in areas other than academia. In particular, a substaintial share of the group either worked at PIK or retained an affiliation with PIK after their doctorates, although the share of those retaining a PIK affiliation declined over time.

We found a high level of joint publications with former PIK colleagues in the years after graduates had left PIK, indicating a high level of research collaboration between PIK researchers and PIK alumni.

To our PhD graduates we would like to say:

Stay in touch!

Please register to join PIK Alumni