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switching career fields

PostPosted: Thu Aug 20, 2015 8:06 am
by A. Clase
I'm currently mid-career and would like to change the focus of my career but am having a hard time getting any interest from potential employers. I have a PhD in microbiology and did an academic post doc. I then got somewhat sucked into government biodefense. In my current field I have gained a tremendous amount of experience, including lab management, program management, supervisory, study director, budgeting etc. but I have not been at the bench in a very long time and I am unable to publish. Does anyone have any suggestions on how to break back into the "real world" I'd like to go into veterinary microbial research or similar and don't want to start over at the post doc level. Not only can I not afford that financially, but it would be a waste of a lot of leadership and subject matter experience/expertise I have.

Re: switching career fields

PostPosted: Thu Aug 20, 2015 11:29 am
by Rich Lemert
As I understand it, you want to return to the bench after an extended absence while changing fields at the same time. Either of these transitions is a challenge; combining them makes the problem almost insurmountable.

To be honest, if you've been out of the lab for more than four or five years I don't see you returning there without taking a significant step backwards. You're probably not current on the literature in your original field, and you'd be starting from near-scratch on any new field. Your skills are also probably rusty, and there are probably some new techniques that you'd have to learn.

Changing the field you work in, or even just the environment, is a much more achievable goal. You have skills that would serve you well in the private sector, and going from wherever you are now to a veterinary medicine company is a reasonable transition. Once there, you can look around to see what other types of jobs might be available that you don't currently know about.

Re: switching career fields

PostPosted: Thu Aug 20, 2015 11:48 am
by A. Clase
Thanks for the reply. I'm not actually looking to return to the bench, but a mentor suggested that is something that was lacking from my recent experience and may be a reason I wasn't getting any interest which is why I mentioned it. I would actually prefer to go into a program manager, director, study director type position.

Re: switching career fields

PostPosted: Fri Aug 21, 2015 2:15 am
by PG
As Rich said try to take one step at the time. Any change that you want to do is going to add to the barrier that you are trying to pass and getting passed several small barriers is usually a lot easier than passing one very high although it takes longer time.

Not publishing is normal for anyone active in many companies etc. What type of position are you looking for? Do you want to go back to academic research or are you looking at company positions. There are lots of companies that are also connected to biodefence research in addition to doing other things.

Re: switching career fields

PostPosted: Fri Aug 21, 2015 2:48 am
by D.X.
Have you looked at Military Options?

They offer very competitive packages and have many opportunites in These area. With a PhD, you would be given automatic commission officer status with a minimal rank of Captain at least in the US Army - I recommend you call the various branches and see what they can offer you, some branches may offer more competitive packages than others.

Also if you're in Biodefense and interested in Vet Micro, have you looked at Department of Homeland Security? As I understand it, they manage Plum Island (out in New York), they were doing alot of animal bio-defense work out there - it use to be part of USDA until Homeland took it over many years ago. You could also look at USDA.

Other roles that could be interesting to you could be USDA inspector or see if US FDA has something up your alley.

And you can always check the Intelligence Community.

Good luck,


Re: switching career fields

PostPosted: Mon Aug 24, 2015 11:39 am
by Dave Walker
I just want to chime in and say that DX's military/gov't research idea sounds excellent to me in this situation. It is a lightbulb going off that I didn't recognize until now.

Your years in biodefense and knowledge of the system/bureaucracy would be a huge benefit...whereas it would be a red flag if you tried to work in acdemia or industry. If you don't mind working in a government outpost as opposed to a research hub (I'm thinking e.g. Frederick, MD) there are many "under the radar" opportunities. I have only passing familiarity with places like USAMRID but it seemed like an untapped resource when I was looking for jobs last year. There are also government CRO-type companies like SAIC which may be of interest.