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MS Degree - Academia vs. Industry

PostPosted: Fri Nov 12, 2004 12:22 pm
by Derek Thornton
I am a relatively recent graduate with a Masters in Oncological Sciences. Since I am getting my career 'started', I feel uninformed and clueless concerning what advantages and disadvantages a MS degree holder would have working in industry versus academia. Would a MS degree holder be more successful in an industry setting versus an academic setting? Is moving up the career ladder possible in either setting with a MS degree?


Derek Thornton

MS Degree - Academia vs. Industry

PostPosted: Fri Nov 12, 2004 12:52 pm
by John Fetzer
A masters degree is more important in industry than in academics. In academics, almost every professor is a PhD and many administrators also have an EdD. In industry, there are many masters scientists and even a few with bachelors doing science. The people running the companies include lots of bachelors business and engineering people. The attitude is capabilities, not plaques on the wall.

In some companies this will be different, but in general once you get into a place your talents are mainly what people judge you on. The ivy-covered towers, however, are much more status oriented. Even if you have a docorate, there is a strong bias for the big-name universities. Additionally, academia strongly goes with who your research advisor was. An average scientist from a big-name group has more weight than a brilliant person from a young professor of no strong reputation. Industry cares little of that once you get hired.


MS Degree - Academia vs. Industry

PostPosted: Fri Nov 12, 2004 1:00 pm
by Dave Jensen
I disagree with some of John's comments, primarily because his view is through chemistry. (A MS chemist can do quite well in industry -- in fact, they are always in demand. They can move up the ladder in a chemical company and become a full Research Scientist quite easily.) In a biotech environment, and often in pharma as well, the MS biologist candidate falls into the BS/MS rut (no clear lines between the two degrees). Working for a PhD. Bumping into the glass ceiling present in 80% of the companies.

However, I'd agree with John that the road IS far better in industry for the MS than in academia. There is no career track for you in academia. In industry, many companies will show you a ladder for MS that actually has some career potential in it. If you get off the research track, you can go far in many job categories in industry. Your only rocky road would be at the bench -- unless the company is one of the minority, a firm that advances you because of what you do, and not because you have the PhD after your name.

Here's a NextWave article that talks about the MS Degree. While it is from 1996, most of the comments remain current:

MS Careers

Dave Jensen, Moderator
CareerTrax Inc.

MS Degree - Academia vs. Industry

PostPosted: Fri Nov 12, 2004 8:03 pm
by Shawn Baker
I agree with Dave's comments - it seems that for most companies there is a glass ceiling for researchers with an MS or BS. Actually, I don't run into too many lab researchers with MS degrees - it seems like most either stop with the BS or go on to complete the PhD. Outside of the lab (business development, marketing, etc) it seems to be a different story (fewer PhDs and no apparent glass ceiling).


MS Degree - Academia vs. Industry

PostPosted: Mon Nov 15, 2004 8:03 am
by Val

University degree used to be a "meal ticket" in the 1950s and 60s, I was told. Now everyone has a degree, so the employers came to expect it routinely from a job applicant. The possession of university degree nowdays is the evidence that the person has successfully jumped through the series of loops, and thus has demonstrated he/she can focus on performing tasks.

An advanced degree (PhD) is said to be a "hunting licence" for a job. You need a degree to just start a job search. But the possession of the degree does not mean that you will automatically get a job.

It is also said that "it is not what you know, it is who you know". The most important parameter for which you will be promoted regardless whether it is academia or industry, if the people in power know that you are a good performer, and if they felt satisfied from your brownnosing them. I suppose the degree is one of the last parameters in the list which determine the career progression of a person.

So the practical advice is: get to work, do what you like, and the success may come to you.