Over 50% of PhDs work outside academia (Science and Engineering Indicators 2012) which means that many PhDs are indeed working in a variety of different jobs, and most importantly, this means that the majority of PhDs are not pursuing tenure track faculty positions. Despite this, a perpetuating stigma exists that makes PhDs feel like failures if they are not working toward a tenure track career. For the advancement of all academic fields, we need to work together on breaking this stigma.
PhDs are everything. They are doing highly impactful and highly innovative work everywhere outside academia in unique and exciting positions. You can find PhDs in a variety of positions from executives and administrators, legal and policy analysts, entrepreneurs, consultants, writers, editors, publishers, to marketing professionals. The list could go on and on.
The stigma suggesting that PhDs are failures, if they are not on the tenure track, has to change and will change. The big question is when and how. One of the requirements of this change is a major shift in the way faculties think within academia. Once faculty (all faculty) support all possible career paths for PhDs, then it will be easier for graduate students and postdocs to pursue whatever career path they desire. In the meantime, let’s encourage graduate students, postdocs, and all PhDs to pursue the career path that makes them happy rather than feeling trapped by a mentor and/or the pursuit of a tenure track position.
PhDs, please reach out to others that have moved outside academia and learn how they did so. Seek support from your peers. You’ll be surprised how eager other PhDs are when it comes to talking to graduate students and postdocs about these issues.
You can read more about different types of careers for PhDs here, here and here. In addition to these links, spend a couple hours searching the web for others articles or websites that highlight all the possible careers for PhDs. If you just look, you will find a slew of resources available describing career options for PhDs and many different websites provide insight and support for graduate students and PhDs exploring career options like this one. Finally, I encourage you to check a project I recently started. What Are All The PhDs? is a blog meant to put a personal spin on cataloging all the possible career paths for PhDs. Ultimately, this site should help graduate students, postdocs, and PhDs looking to explore careers paths, understand that PhDs are everything! If you are a PhD, consider submitting your career path bio to the site so that you can help others realize all the potential opportunities that are available and how to navigate career transitions.
The main message of this post is simple: PhDs, go out in the world and be…everything!
About the Author:
Nathan has a Bachelor of Science degree in agricultural biotechnology, a PhD in biochemistry, and an MBA with an operations management focus. He is the Assistant Director for Research for the University of Kentucky Markey Cancer Center. He is the founder of Integrative Academic Solutions, which aims to help individuals integrate multiple disciplines to achieve innovative job performance. He is also the founder/editor of The Daily PhD, a newspaper dedicated to graduate school issues and PhD career paths. Lastly, he is the founder/editor of What Are All The PhDs?, which is dedicated to putting a personal spin on highlighting all possible career paths for PhDs.
This article originally appeared here on SynBio Consulting’s blog. This slightly modified version of the article is re-published here under a Creative Commons Attribution License.