Alternative Careers for PhDs
|Everyone is keenly aware that there are not as many academic job openings for PhDs as there are new PhD graduates every year. (If you weren't aware before, you are now.) So what should you do if you can't find that faculty position you've been trained for? Or perhaps, you've decided that working at the bench is not for you.|
|Fortunately, there are a diverse set of non-research jobs well-suited for PhDs that don't require you to spend a half decade getting another degree. No, we're not talking about working the counter at your nearest fast-food joint. There are relevant, well-paying, and intellectually stimulating jobs that you might consider if you really want to leave the bench. We'll discuss a few of them below.|
|Buy Me, Sell You
Is making commercials really for me? For PhDs, marketing can be so much more than this. At BioLegend, we have a specific "technical marketing" department with PhDs who contribute to scientific content marketing to researchers. We develop marketing items that are scientific and technical, requiring the expertise of PhDs: posters, webpages, email announcements, product flyers, product datasheets, blog posts, and even promotional movies. This would not be uncommon for most marketing departments in biotech companies, but it depends on the structure of how marketing departments get their technical information.
|Laying Down the Law
You did this when you were in the lab, why not get paid for it? Technology transfer agents, patent agents, and patent examiners are some specific jobs for PhDs that don't require a law degree. While you may think these don't require your special scientific background, it is quite the contrary. Many patents and technology offices at universities require an in-depth knowledge of the science behind these, and PhDs are the best suited. If you have the dedication, you could get a law degree and go into patent law, a potentially highly lucrative and competitive position. On a similar note, business development offices of biotech companies can also use the services of competent PhDs.
|Lights, Camera, Action
While Hollywood does hire scientific consultants for movies, this is not what we're talking about. Program managers for government funding agencies are the ones who help to guide the scientific direction of organizations such as the NIH, NSF, and NASA, among others. These do require a number of years of research experience, but can be quite rewarding for those who are interested in seeing a broad view of the current research trends and helping to steer the path of future research.
|Oh, the Humanity
Surprisingly, in the US, over 12 million people work in the non-profit sector, many of which are PhDs. This involves so much more than just soup-kitchens. There are non-profit organizations for biomedical research, health care, environmental protection, education, international aid, disaster relief, science policy, and science awareness, among others. They are all looking for the expertise of PhDs.
|A Poet and You Didn't Know It
From biotech companies to pharmaceuticals to newspapers/journals, everyone needs someone who is proficient at the written word and can comprehend the science involved. You may choose to specialize or be more broad in your approach, that is up to you. You could even start your own science blog.
Scientific writing requires scientists, preferably PhDs. Duh.
|Celebrate Your Skills
While most PhD training programs are preparing you for an academic career, the reality is that most don't end up with one. The good news is that your training will serve you well, young Jedi, in many careers that you may not have considered before. There are plenty of additional career paths that we did not list here, so go out and explore them. Walter White did get something right; he was a great high school chemistry teacher.
|There are a variety of resources that you can find on the web to help you with choosing alternative careers. Below are a few:
|If you're still dedicated to the path of academia, you can also read this piece on how to be successful in academia: https://www.onlinephdprograms.com/what-does-it-really-take-to-make-it-in-academia/.|