Is getting a PhD a risky career move?

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Is getting a PhD a risky career move?

Postby Karen » Sat Oct 09, 2004 9:35 pm

I recently graduated with a BA in mol bio and biochemistry. I just started a PhD program in Mol Bio and I'm not sure if it is worth my time and effort. I know that I do not want to be a prof or run my own lab in a university. I want to go into Industry but I have never worked in that type of setting before and I won\'t be exposed to it for another 5-6 years (until I get out of this program).
Is it worth it for me to get a PhD if I have already ruled out working in academia? Is it worth it to get a PhD since there are limited positions in Industry for people with that type of education? What are the advantages of having a MS in industry over a PhD? and vice versa?

Is getting a PhD a risky career move?

Postby Varisa » Sun Oct 10, 2004 11:54 am

PhDs have more control over what they\'re working on, and they do get paid more. The thing about MS is that you have to pay for them, while for PhDs that is usually not the case.
Have you thought about working in the industry for a while first before getting into a PhD program? Some companies can actually finance getting an MS.

Take my advice with a grain of salt, I\'m just an undergraduate.

Is getting a PhD a risky career move?

Postby Bill L. & Naledi S. » Sun Oct 10, 2004 1:22 pm

Hi Karen -- If you want to maximize your chances for having the greatest number of career options in the life sciences industry, a PhD is still a good idea.

I think Varisa has a good suggestion -- to try to get some industry experience! Actually some larger companies are willing to hire PhD-level students for summer internships. At many universities, after your first year it's very difficult to be able to work outside the university, so if you want to pursue this idea, you should check it out now!

Also if it's not too late, be sure to pick your lab wisely -- a PI who has good industry connections and current ongoing collaborations with industry will allow you to begin your industry network while you're still a graduate student.

Best wishes --
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Is getting a PhD a risky career move?

Postby marshaG » Tue Oct 12, 2004 10:15 am

I just wanted to add a little to what has been said thus far. A PhD can be advantageous, as some have already pointed out. However, depending on how your program is streamlined you may want to give it some more in depth thoughts. Most PhD programs are heavily focused on training students for academia and to be quite honest, it takes a bit of fancy footwork to get into other scientific sectors after spending 5-6 years of early career development in an academic setting. I personally spent three years in a PhD program before moving on to something else. And I have to say that I don\'t regret doing so. With a masters you can still move into most other sectors. Furthermore, the pay advantage for a PhD is not that great and probably comparable to a MS with experience. Personally I feel that a PhD is only practical if you\'re interested in academia. However, it is up to you. I will tell you that you can\'t expect to do much career advancement in industry after your first yr in a PhD program - Not if you expect to graduate ina timely fashion. However, some folks do prefer to stay the course and then move on to other things after. i think I would agree that if you\'re thinking about industry it may be a good idea to try to get an industry job now. Perhaps you can take a leave of absence from your program. Whatever you decide you should do it sooner rather than later. I suspect though that if you\'re having second thoughts at this point you should seriously recosider. Good Luck.

Is getting a PhD a risky career move?

Postby Dave Jensen » Tue Oct 12, 2004 9:02 pm


I'll add a bit of different advice. Karen, I see so many PhD's in the biotechnology and pharmaceutical industry -- and almost every other search we do requires one -- that I am wondering why you feel there is not much need for PhD's in industry. That simply isn't true! The PhD is the core degree for most startup biotech companies, who hire "BS/MS people" and "PhD scientists" as two totally separate types of hires. Not always fair, but MS people are often lumped together with BA/BS graduates in the same kinds of jobs for a year or two. After a time, the MS will rise faster in the organization, but if you are interested in research or development, stick out the PhD program because you will not have any "glass ceilings" at that point. You can rise as high as you'd like in the organization.

Even in areas such as Business Development, biotech companies seek out the PhD. So, it isn't going to be a declining degree level for any time in the immediate future.

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