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admin 11.12.2014

There was a time when most students pursuing a PhD would find themselves in tenure track teaching positions, making any other option an “alternative” career path. Today, tenure track positions are very difficult to come by for even the most brilliant of candidates. Beyond the low supply of available academic positions, more graduates than ever are committing the crime of not even considering a career in academia after considering their interests and career goals.
Since the employment landscape has shifted significantly, it is good to rethink any bad feelings associated with “alternative” careers.
For PhD students who want to follow an alternative career path, there are a surprising number of options. Unlike other professional programs, PhD programs tend to do a poor job of educating students in the specifics of what those options are.  The blame for this is not entirely on career services departments, as many schools have ramped up efforts in recent years to reach out to students in PhD programs. The students themselves must realize that the employment landscape has changed, and that exploring alternative careers for PhD students is not something to be left as an afterthought. Many graduate students would love to focus just on completing an awesome thesis that is meticulous and complete.
The management consulting industry is actively pursuing PhD graduates alongside MBA graduates in reverence for the fact that most PhDs develop exceptional analytical skills over the course of completing their thesis project.
Management consulting generally involves assessing big picture problems, finding a way to meaningfully break them down using both quantitative and qualitative methods, and providing suggestions for the methods that will best address the problems.
Although there is a general requirement for mathematical competence, the larger firms tend to have specific business boot camp programs for incoming PhDs, so loading up on business classes beforehand isn’t necessary.
If you have a great idea or product that addresses an open and unsaturated market, then there can be nothing more rewarding than rolling up your sleeves and addressing that need yourself.
If you are getting your degree in a technical field where there might be the opportunity to patent a product or method you are developing, then you may want to go out and try to build a business around it.  It can be long hours, stressful, and risky, but the potential for both financial and personal rewards are sky-high.
You may not have associated PhDs with the world of finance, but there are many opportunities that demand the technical expertise and quantitative skills that many PhDs have in spades.
Two of the most popular career options for PhDs in finance are in equity research and quantitative analysis.  Equity research analysts cover a specific industry and analyze companies within that industry. Quantitative analysts tend to be handy in computer programming and will build programs to determine when and where transactions should take place.
A degree related to a specific industry will likely help in pursuing a position as an equity research analyst. If you are feeling particularly patriotic, there are plenty of positions available in which you will be able to serve your country.  There is the option to enlist in one of the military branches and serve as a military researcher in your field of study. If your degree is in a technical field such as computer science, engineering, or one of the life sciences, many intellectual property law firms employ PhDs as technical specialists to review and compose patent applications. Most firms will require technical specialists to become a certified patent agent within a year of employment, and some will even offer programs that allow you to complete law school part-time on the company’s dime.
There is the obvious option for life science and chemistry PhDs to pursue research and development positions within pharmaceutical and biotechnology firms. There are also other alternative careers for PhD students that may be less obvious.  Other positions within pharmaceutical and biotechnology companies that are open to PhDs include business development manager, regulatory affairs specialist, medical science liaison, and field application scientist.
Are you fed up with government policy within your field of expertise?  Why just complain when you can actively participate in the policy formation process and voice your concerns directly to the decision makers.
There are quite a few opportunities to serve as a technical advisor in your field of expertise through government sponsored internship and postdoctoral programs.
For those who especially love meeting new people and a good dose of travel, a career in sales may be a good fit.  Many companies that produce technically complicated products and instruments actively recruit PhDs to sell those products. If you have extensive experience using any particular instrument or technology as a part of your dissertation research, you’ll likely be an especially attractive candidate. Every research university produces patentable technology, and the technology transfer office is responsible for figuring out how to turn those technologies into products that can be commercialized.
The route for commercialization involves either out licensing to companies or developing new ventures, and there are opportunities for PhDs to be involved in these processes as a licensing associate. If you have an entrepreneurial spirit but would rather not be tied down to one company’s success, your calling may be to help other entrepreneurs build their companies into successful ventures.


As a venture capitalist you’ll be responsible for identifying companies that you believe are likely to succeed after conducting due diligence. Although it’s not an easy industry to break into, the rewards can be great, both financially and personally. Of course, anyone is free to try their hand at writing a novel, but PhDs are especially well suited to a writing career given the extensive experience throughout the dissertation process. Chances are, there is some form of media that addresses your area of expertise, whether it is television, radio, newspaper, magazine, academic journal, or even a blog.  If you studied a technical field, there are also opportunities to become a scientific or medical writer within a pharmaceutical or biotechnology company.
Putting all of these careers into one nebulous group called “industry” or “alternative careers for PhD students” fails to take into account the variety of these options. As positions within academia continue to become more elusive, alternative career preparation will need to become more than a mere afterthought. There are specific experiences, internships, and extracurricular activities that can be undertaken while doing a PhD that can prove to be vital in developing important skills and connections within a particular industry. The earlier students are made aware of these options, the better able they are to pursue meaningful experiences. About Michael D'EcclessisMichael is a graduate fellow pursuing his PhD in Cell and Developmental Biology at Rutgers University. How do you think Open Access, science blog and micro-publications are affecting traditional careers in publishing? What many people may not realize is that if you’ve been in a field or industry for a few years, you likely already have the skills to be a consultant.
Which positions are for more experienced workers in industry or for those who are looking for entry-level? A job in academia has always been the alternative one for me as having a teaching career has never sounded that appealing to me. Kendall is an Online Community Specialist at Collegis Education who oversees online communities on behalf of Rasmussen College. Featured Articles Your Guide to Becoming a Preschool Teacher Get on the Fast Track to an Early Childhood Education Job Salary by State: Where Can You Really Earn the Most?
By requesting information, I authorize Rasmussen College to contact me by email, phone or text message at the number provided. Please Note: Your story idea may be featured on the Rasmussen College News Beat or on one of our social networks.
Information about our graduation rates, median debt of students who completed the program, and other important information. Rasmussen College is a regionally accredited college authorized to operate as a postsecondary educational institution by the Illinois Board of Higher Education. While you’d still need some training, who better than a trucker who knows the ropes to work dispatching loads?
If you don’t mind the heavy work and a probable pay cut (dock workers often make less than an OTR driver), you could easily get a more stable 9-5 kind of job—even at your own company—on the loading dock. You’ve thought of being an owner-operator, but you’re starting to feel even more ambitious. Most PhD graduates find themselves asking the question “what do I do now with this degree?”. The reality is that very few employers outside of academia will really care or know the difference between a perfect thesis and a good thesis.
They advise whether the stock of a company should be bought (value will increase), sold (value will decrease), or held (meh, value will likely remain the same).
However, quantitative analysis is usually not industry specific and will usually only rely on quantitative and programming skills to be a successful candidate.
You will consider the management team, the validity of the technology and product upon which the company is based and the potential market and disruptive potential of the technology or product. This may bring many students into the false sense that preparing for a nonacademic career is a one-size-fits-all proposition that can be accomplished in the few weeks before graduation. He is also the founder of PhD Career Guide, a website devoted to providing specific career information for graduate students of all disciplines.


I wish my classmates and I read this 3 years ago (hardly anyone wanted to go into academia). Of that pool, I’ve only worked with several dozen, and during an average year, need less than 2 dozen clients to consistently earn over $100k. I was looking for a job in research and development department in many companies after graduated my first degree (MEng) and couldn’t find one that would even consider with the MEng degree that I have. You’re looking for a career where you can make meaningful relationships, a lasting contribution to the hearts and minds of generations to come and you want to work in education. She has a passion for social media and enjoys motivating and encouraging former, current and future learners.
Publishers are actively seeking PhDs as they are already integrated in their subject communities.
Of course, this is really hard to do when one is doing research, writing a dissertation, taking classes and trying to squeeze in sleep too. I would need at least a Masters (by research) degree just to make myself eligible to apply for the job. Don’t feel like sitting in a cab for quite so many hours each day, but don’t feel qualified for anything else?
Check with your current employer first, for ease of 401k, IRA, and health insurance transfer, then branch out. Get yourself some educational training in business administration (try vocational schools and two year associates programs, or even online enrichment programs, to get some certification). It is time to realize that a student’s career is first and foremost their own responsibility, not their PI’s.
Personally, I didn’t start looking at alternative careers until my second year as a postdoc.
Although this is a good list of alternative PhD careers, the necessary steps that need to be taken to break into these careers are missing.
Would you like to share a personal success story about overcoming an obstacle while earning your degree? A bit of business education combined with your existing experience and skills would make you an asset in trucking company management. An honest conversation with a PhD supervisor early on will more than likely open up the opportunity for them to serve as a networking resource instead of someone to hide ambitions from. And now fast approaching the finish line, I’m still not interested in looking for a job in academia when I finally completed my PhD.
Doubt may come from a general uncertainty about which nonacademic route is available or a good personal fit. There are many education-related occupations to explore for those of you with various educational backgrounds and work experiences. One of the first and most important steps in pushing students to be more proactive in pursuing their careers is helping them to be more informed regarding which career options are actually out there.
Try submitting blog articles to authoritative websites and teaching magazines to get your name out there.
With this type of experience, you can begin sending your writing samples to educational publishers for review. If there are educational publishers in your area, set up an informational interview to learn more about the role of a writer for their company and how you could earn a position there. Think about the skills you currently possess and what you could offer a company or organization. Another way to find an alternative education career is by taking an aptitude test to match your skills to the career that’s right for you.




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