To get a PhD for a non-research career?

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To get a PhD for a non-research career?

Postby Graduate student » Fri Oct 22, 2004 12:09 am

I am starting my 3rd year of graduate school and want to pursue a career away from the bench. My question is, should I even be completing a PhD (in biochemistry) if my intent is to pursue a non-research career?

All of my work experience since graduating with my BS 6 yrs ago has been lab research-related ( as a research associate in a biotech company and as a technician at an academic lab), except for 2 part-time teaching positions (as a graduate student TA and as a lab instructor at a private college). As an undergrad, I worked as a lab tech.

I am open to a variety of science-related careers such as tech transfer, tech support, science policy, marketing in biotech, science career advising and recruitment, and education.

On the other hand, if I finish with a masters, how can I break into these non-bench careers if all my past work experience has been lab-research-oriented?

Thank you!
Graduate student

To get a PhD for a non-research career?

Postby Dave Jensen » Fri Oct 22, 2004 1:22 pm

Hello Anonymous!

I'd love to hear from other posters on your predicament. Please, if you've had some similar thoughts in the past, help this person out by telling them what you do, or how you handled the situation. I have a friend with the initials of JGH that I hope will respond to you soon.

Many non-research careers actually require a PhD, or while they may not state this, they usually hire PhD's as a preference. This would include jobs such as Business Development in a biotechnology company, or Technology Transfer, etc. So, your future PhD would actually be a good thing in those areas. However, it isn't a necessity . . . It is just that there is a potential of having a boss with a PhD, and feeling somewhat of a ceiling on top of you for future advancement.

Other non-bench jobs, such as career counseling, marketing, education, etc. don't require that PhD at all, and you can likely do very well by graduating with the MS and going to work. However, in each of those other career areas you mention, I have seen people achieve remarkable success in their field, BECAUSE they had a PhD. So, it isn't something where you'll be "aced out" of a job if you did complete your PhD.

With regards to your question about breaking into a new job area after the Masters, isn't this what everyone does when they get a job after college? Most people have no experience in ANYTHING, and they simply land a job through the usual methods and get trained. I hate to make it sound so simple, because it is not, but just getting out there and talking to people in the fields you are interested in will help a good deal. You'll learn how other people did it, and you'll find out interesting facts about requirements. For example, you talk to a Marketing specialist in a life sciences company, and they tell you that everyone at their company in marketing had to start with a sales job, etc, etc.

Please let us know what you decide to do!

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To get a PhD for a non-research career?

Postby A. Sam » Fri Oct 22, 2004 5:03 pm

Assuming you've passed your qualifying exams and chosen a thesis lab, I'd say it's more than worth it finish your degree. Three or so more years is a small investment for all the opportunities that will be available to you from then on. Yes, even for a non-research career. Especially so, in fact.
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To get a PhD for a non-research career?

Postby mpb » Sun Oct 24, 2004 5:49 pm

Hi Anonymous,

I work as a medical writer in the pharmaceutical industry. There are quite a few jobs in medical communications, marketing, publishing, and advertising where a PhD is not exactly essential, but is certainly helpful. The cognitive skills that you learn in getting your PhD are useful in and of themselves, but the degree itself will also make it easier for you to get in the door at a lot of places. Although many disgruntled PhDs will tell you that it isn't worth it, that certainly has not been my experience, nor in the experience of many people I know who work in these industries.

One tip: I think the biggest thing you need to remember when you interview for these jobs or talk to people in these industries is that not everyone will be familiar with the minutae of the molecular pathway that you have spent the last 10 years studying. So if someone asks you what your research topic was, try to frame your response in a way that is intelligible to an educated layperson. Say "I was studying molecular mechanisms that are important in breast cancer [or whatever]" rather than "I was studying the regulation of this gene that only 20 people have ever heard of." It sounds obvious, but I have seen a lot of people who can't explain their research in simple terms, and this makes it more difficult for a potential employer to weigh your value to their company.


To get a PhD for a non-research career?

Postby John J » Wed Oct 27, 2004 8:57 pm

Hi anonymous

please see my response under the changing career discussion started by MOON.

In addition to this, I have a PhD in biochem and while it may have helped to get me an initial interview and possibly some additional credibility during my career (especially when dealing with key physicians) it is not a skill that is neccessary to fulfill the role. Many of my colleagues in the pharma industry are less qualified (and some are more) but the most successful one's don't get there on the basis of qualifications as you will see in my other response.

reards, John J
John J

To get a PhD for a non-research career?

Postby Chris » Thu Oct 28, 2004 1:12 pm

I would say, it depends how far along you are in your program. If you just have the thesis to do, I would stick it out. Although you don\'t need a PhD. for many non-research jobs, it can often help to get you in the door. When I moved from bench research to tech transfer, they specifically wanted a Ph.D. to add some additional scientific weight to the office. Getting the Ph.D. can\'t hurt but could open up opportunities in the future.

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