Opting Out Of the PhD Bandwagon


Published online at Lab Times.

Opting out of the PhD bandwagon

Just finished your studies and what then? There are several interesting avenues you can explore besides doing a PhD.

As a science grad student with the desire to pursue a scientific career, you automatically sign up for a PhD program. A few months into it and you fret about failures and are bogged down by the multitude of assignments and experiments in your “lab-life”. Graduate life no longer seems to interest you but you are yet clueless of what life holds for you with a Bachelor’s or a Master’s degree. Whether you have already tasted a ‘bitter’ PhD life or are on the verge of walking into the premises of a lab, knowing too well that you are not ready for it, here are a few career options that you may want to consider.

A sound knowledge of your field of science coupled with some excellent marketing skills can open portals for you in product development and sales. This goes even better if you have the gift of the gab and you could spin off as a successful dealer. Stephanie MacLean, a careers advisor at the University of Dundee, UK, says that graduate recruitment programs of GlaxoSmithKline and BAE Systems are good scaffolds to launch a career in the more ‘corporate’ aspects of science. In addition, small companies selling lab equipment recruit single degree holders in technical services that provide scientific support to customers, allowing their employees to stay close to science.

If you still want to work on your secret hypotheses but stay away from academics, you could always make use of the research opportunities provided by multi-nationals including Roche, Millipore and Siemens. Besides offering an appealing commercial environment, industry research often holds prospects for a permanent research contract unlike its academic counterpart.

Intellectual Property (IP) law is another direction, in which many science graduates turn. Though top private firms employ at PhD level, there are many that employ candidates with a first class honors degree in science, technology or engineering. IP-related careers pay off very well and allow one to keep in line with cutting edge research, while also helping you explore your abilities in lateral thinking and patent law. A major prerequisite here, Stephanie MacLean says, is an attractive CV. The law firms advertise only about 10 graduate vacancies per year and recruitment is highly competitive.

Yet another option for you, if you opt out of PhD, is to look for a clinical research associate position. You will be responsible for organizing and monitoring clinical trials and for keeping records. Though the position itself is offered to graduates with some experience, entry into the field as a clinical trial administrator or a clinical data co-ordinator can help you lead your way up.

If you discover the prolific writer within, there is always the choice of taking up editorials or going freelance to stay connected to science. Several soft-skills workshops organized by your university or the state will certainly help hone your analytical and writing skills.

To sum up, you can take the lead in science either with or without a PhD – the question is how wisely you tap your talents and find the best platform to invest your degree.

Photo: PhDs and part-time job by Quinn Dombrowski via Creative Commons License

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