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Top 10 Industry Careers for PhD Graduates

I recently completed my PhD in Molecular Biology. Although I thoroughly enjoyed my project and the laboratory environment, I knew academia was not for me. I could not picture myself supervising students and applying for grants, however, I enjoy doing research. For most PhD graduates who do dream about a life in academia, there are not enough academic posts for the increasing number of PhDs graduating each year. Whatever your reason, the question now is: what career choices do you have outside of academia?

Your PhD Skills are Transferable

Before you decide on a career, consider what you enjoyed doing during your PhD and the skills you acquired. How can these skills be applied to jobs outside of academia? Some examples of transferable skills include:

  •  Analyzed and interpreted complex data: data analysis skills.
  • Repeated experiments until they worked: problem-solving
  • Presented your work at conferences: public speaking
  • Wrote a thesis, published papers and/or books or chapters of a book: writing
  • Completed a PhD: the ability to complete an enormous project with minimal supervision.
  • Planned a conference: event planning.
  • Worked with collaborators abroad: you can work with people from diverse backgrounds.

Career Options for STEM PhDs

Figuring out where to apply all your transferable skills can be a daunting task. Your options are never-ending. Here we list some common industry careers for STEM PhD graduates, to give you some ideas:

  1. Research and development (R&D): This will make use of your methodical approach to research and can be applied to many industries including pharmaceuticals, banking, and fast moving consumer goods (FMCG).
  2. Market Research Analyst: Research and evaluate commercial opportunities to maximize revenues.
  3. Medical Communication Specialist: Healthcare organizations need people to write and edit materials for patients, clients, and medical professionals.
  4. Business Development Manager: Your analytical skills and scientific knowledge can be used to develop new business opportunities and manage existing ones.
  5. Management Consultant: Use your problem-solving skills to design strategies with a team. The consulting industry is known for training employees, so you can fine tune your skills on the job.
  6. Competitive Intelligence Analyst: Analyse large sets of data to determine threats and opportunities in the market.
  7. Product Manager: Manage the life-cycle of a product.
  8. Quantitative Analyst: Analyze quantitative data, do statistical modeling, and pattern recognition as well as financial research.
  9. Healthcare Information Technology Specialist: Convert patients’ medical records into an electronic format.
  10. Medical Science Liaison: Build relationships with key opinion leaders in various therapeutic areas.

Other PhD Career Options

  1. Entrepreneurship: PhD graduates have all the skills needed to be entrepreneurs. You have identified a problem, researched it, applied for funding, found a solution, and shared it with others about it in your thesis and/or publications.
  2. Finance: Equity research and quantitative analysis in the financial sector. If you have computer programming skills, this may be a route for you.
  3. High School Teacher: Teach a subject related to your field of expertise. The school will love the fact that its teachers are highly qualified.
  4. Writing: Write content or editorials for newspapers, magazines, or blogs. Alternatively, write technical material for pharmaceutical or biotechnology companies.
  5. Sales: Meet new people and travel while you sell a scientific or technical product for a company.
  6. Technology transfer: Work in your university’s technology transfer office for all those patentable products the students are developing.
  7. Law: Use your knowledge to advise patent attorneys or complete a law degree and become a patent attorney.

We hope this has given you some ideas that you can pursue. Please share other non-academic career options with us in the comments section below.


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