Beyond Academia: Five Side Hustles for PhD Holders

Beyond Academia: Five Side Hustles for PhD Holders
by NotedSource

The modern landscape for large companies of calls for a constant influx of knowledge and specialized expertise. As an academic, you are well-armed with both - the product of years of strenuous study and intensive research. A PhD is not just an academic credential; it's a testament to your ability to dive deeply into complex problems, analyze them critically, and derive nuanced insights. This set of abilities can be your springboard into a world of opportunities and PhD side hustles that extend beyond the traditional academic sphere.

In this article, we explore five PhD side hustles, or opportunities outside the university, that can benefit from your expertise: online course creation, science writing and communication, data analysis consulting, collaboration with companies through NotedSource, and offering peer reviewing and editing services. Each of these areas offers a unique way for you to contribute to a broader discourse, apply your specialized knowledge, discover alternative career paths, and make a meaningful impact.

1. Online Course Creation

Who's it for? Academics in any field with a knack for teaching.

Many of the world's top universities offer online courses through platforms like Coursera, edX, or their own digital learning environments. These platforms give anyone the chance to learn from leading academics at institutions like MIT, Harvard, or Stanford. However, these courses aren't only open to established institutions. Independent academics with the right expertise and teaching skills can create their own online courses.

To get started, identify your unique selling proposition. Your course should offer something that students can't find elsewhere, whether that's a unique approach, a niche topic, or unique insights from your research. Use a platform like Teachable or Udemy to host your course, and promote it through your academic and professional networks.

2. Science Writing and Communication

Who's it for? PhDs in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) fields who enjoy writing and translating complex ideas into layman's terms.

Science communication is a booming field. As the world becomes more and more reliant on technology, there's an ever-growing demand for people who can translate complex scientific and technical concepts into language that anyone can understand. With a PhD, you're perfectly positioned to fill this gap.

To get started, try writing articles about your field for popular science magazines, blogs, or websites. You could also consider the common side hustles of writing a popular science book, starting a science blog, or creating a YouTube channel.

3. Data Analysis Consulting

Who's it for? PhDs in fields that involve heavy data analysis, like statistics, computer science, economics, or psychology.

Many companies lack the skills and knowledge to analyze their data effectively. As a data analysis consultant, you could help them extract meaningful insights from their data, driving better business decisions. To get started, try networking with professionals in industries related to your field of study. Offer your services as a consultant on a freelance basis. Platforms like Upwork, Freelancer, or LinkedIn can be helpful for finding your first clients and sourcing opportunities.

4. Collaborate on Research and Innovation with Companies Through NotedSource

Who's it for? Academics from all disciplines who wish to monetize their research skills and collaborate with businesses.

With the emergence of platforms like NotedSource, it is now easier than ever for researchers to connect directly with businesses seeking research and innovation expertise. As a researcher, you are an expert in your field and your expertise is invaluable to companies. You can monetize your research skills by consulting, helping businesses innovate, and creating research solutions to complex problems they face. Plus, there are benefits to you like enhancing your profile and access to resources.

To get started with NotedSource, simply create a profile highlighting your research expertise. NotedSource's matching algorithm will connect you with businesses looking for your specific skill set. You will then have the opportunity to collaborate with these research projects, either on a short-term basis or through ongoing consulting relationships. You set your own rates, ensuring you are adequately compensated for your time and expertise.

5. Peer Reviewing and Editing Services

Who's it for? Academics in any discipline with a strong command of language and grammar, and an understanding of the publishing process.

Peer reviewing and editing are critical steps in the academic publishing process. With a PhD, you have a deep understanding of your field and the standards of academic publishing, making you ideally suited to offer peer reviewing and editing services to other academics.

Many journals and publishing houses hire freelance peer reviewers and editors, but you could also offer your services independently. To get started, consider joining editing and proofreading platforms such as Scribendi or ProofreadingPal, or offer your services directly to academic authors in your field.


Each of these side hustles capitalizes on the skills and expertise you have developed throughout your PhD. Not only can they provide an additional source of income, but they also offer the chance to use your knowledge in new and exciting ways outside of the traditional academic setting. Remember, the first step to starting any side hustle is to identify your unique skills and figure out how you can offer them to others in a valuable way. Your expertise is your most powerful asset—don't be afraid to use it!

Remember that every PhD side hustle takes time to build, and it's essential to be patient and persistent. And, of course, always make sure any side hustle complies with the terms of your current employment. Happy hustling!


[^1^].^1 Smith, P., & Zerr, R. (2017). "Online Course Creation: The Academics Perspective". The Internet and Higher Education, 35, 70-77.

[^2^].^2 Burnham, J. (2018). "The Evolution of Science Communication: An Exploratory Study". Journal of Science Communication, 17(1).

[^3^].^3 Fenn, D., & Strauss, A. (2017). "The Gig Economy: The Complete Guide to Getting Better Work, Taking More Time Off, and Financing the Life You Want". AMACOM.

[^4^].^4 Gonzalez, R., & Griffin, A. (2020). "Bridging the Gap between Academia and Industry through Informal Interactions". The Journal of Technology Transfer, 45, 1040-1057.

[^5^].^5 Lillis, T., & Curry, M. J. (2010). "Academic Writing in a Global Context: The Politics and Practices of Publishing in English". Routledge.