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Life after a PhD


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4 replies to this topic

#1 science noob

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Posted 01 December 2011 - 03:46 AM

I would gather most would consider a post-doc training.

Are there alot of people who chose to venture into industry or patent attorney's office?

Is it common for people to switch fields because a PhD tenure turned them off at the end of the supposed suffering?

#2 pito

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Posted 01 December 2011 - 05:04 AM

I would gather most would consider a post-doc training.

Are there alot of people who chose to venture into industry or patent attorney's office?

Is it common for people to switch fields because a PhD tenure turned them off at the end of the supposed suffering?


I have serious doubts that the majority takes a post doc....

To me it seems that most go to the industry..
(or become teachers).
There is a shortage of people that are prepared to to a post doc/do research.
(of course the pay in the industry is a lot higher too + there are a lot of cut backs too in research etc.. so maybe also less interesting post docs avaible)

What I notice a lot here (in Belgium and europe) is what I call "the american MBA style crap" .. ==> for some reason people/companies are becoming more and more like in the usa where you need a MBA and/or PhD to start as a "general manager" or something like that. Often it has nothing to do with research or with their field.
For some reason those companies think that someone with a PhD is a born leader/manager. Its even worse with the MBA crap: as if you become a manager by following a 1 or 2 year education.
(they seem to "trust" in a piece of paper rather then in experience, knowledge, sometimes its really amazing how that MBA crap can open doors while you are nothing compared to a more experienced person)
And I noticed that lots of people that got their masters and or PhD go to the industry and/or get that MBA (rathter fast most). ANd a lot of them start working in "general" profiles (not research-orientated anymore).

But thats maybe another discussion.


If I can believe the "older generation" then a PhD used to mean: researcher .... and acadamical career.. but at this moment... its not so much the case anymore.

For example: last year, 21 people got a PhD in a specific fied at a specific university and of those 21, only 2 (!!!) are doing a post doc. All the rest left for the industry or for a "management" function.
(3 became teachers)

So in the end only 2 (full time) and 3 (teaching part time research) people are still doing research.

Of those that work in the industry 1 is doing +- research.. but its more supervising/networking then actively doing research.
All the others are "suited up" and sit behind a desk all day doing nothing linked with research.
If you don't know it, then ask it! Better to ask and look foolish to some then not ask and stay stupid.

#3 science noob

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Posted 01 December 2011 - 05:34 AM

Interesting observation. By industry, I meant working in the R&D department of say a pharmaceutical or biotech company. I don't think a PhD graduate can go straight to the top of a company unless they did another 2 years MBA. Like you, I question the commitments of these people when they are doing their PhD. It now seems PhD is more a postgraduate degree (like MBA) which people take to "buff up" their CVs, just to end up in something totally different.

Could graduates switching to another profession highlight the toughness to do research in such a volatile field? Research need funding and without it, it is virtually undoable. Having a security might mean alot to some PhDs. But to do a post-doc, one needs some sort of grant/fund which is competitive and highly selective. Or I could be wrong on this.

Most PhDs I know have chosen to go down the path of research in a post-doc training. You never know they might switch to industry after that.

This brings to the point of increasing numbers of new PhDs. It is increasingly common for alot of science grads to undertake an honours/masters followed by PhD. Would this be a case of too many applicants, too few positions?

#4 science noob

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Posted 01 December 2011 - 05:35 AM

Interesting observation. By industry, I meant working in the R&D department of say a pharmaceutical or biotech company. I don't think a PhD graduate can go straight to the top of a company unless they did another 2 years MBA. Like you, I question the commitments of these people when they are doing their PhD. It now seems PhD is more a postgraduate degree (like MBA) which people take to "buff up" their CVs, just to end up in something totally different.

Could graduates switching to another profession highlight the toughness to do research in such a volatile field? Research need funding and without it, it is virtually undoable. Having a security might mean alot to some PhDs. But to do a post-doc, one needs some sort of grant/fund which is competitive and highly selective. Or I could be wrong on this.

Most PhDs I know have chosen to go down the path of research in a post-doc training. You never know they might switch to industry after that.

This brings to the point of increasing numbers of new PhDs. It is increasingly common for alot of science grads to undertake an honours/masters followed by PhD. Would this be a case of too many applicants, too few positions?

#5 pito

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Posted 01 December 2011 - 06:18 AM

Interesting observation. By industry, I meant working in the R&D department of say a pharmaceutical or biotech company. I don't think a PhD graduate can go straight to the top of a company unless they did another 2 years MBA. Like you, I question the commitments of these people when they are doing their PhD. It now seems PhD is more a postgraduate degree (like MBA) which people take to "buff up" their CVs, just to end up in something totally different.

Could graduates switching to another profession highlight the toughness to do research in such a volatile field? Research need funding and without it, it is virtually undoable. Having a security might mean alot to some PhDs. But to do a post-doc, one needs some sort of grant/fund which is competitive and highly selective. Or I could be wrong on this.

Most PhDs I know have chosen to go down the path of research in a post-doc training. You never know they might switch to industry after that.

This brings to the point of increasing numbers of new PhDs. It is increasingly common for alot of science grads to undertake an honours/masters followed by PhD. Would this be a case of too many applicants, too few positions?


R&D in a company... eum.. I concider that more as a researchfunction.. (and often those are also "post docs" but in the industry then..)
But of course, you are right, some end up in such a position, but as told: from those 21, none really ended up in such a function.
(maybe because often those functions require a post doc...)

And about going straight to to top with a PhD? Of course, they dont become the "big boss" right away, but yes: they do start at a "management" function right away after getting their PhD...
Like I said: they suit up and sit behind their desk all day...


The problem is (often it is) that only a minority of PhD's end up doing research and because of this you need to start hiring more people..
If you need 10 post docs a year and you hire 40 PhD students but only 5 stay for the PhD.. well , the year after that.. you hire 80..Its a bit simplified.. but they this is the case now often.
Or often (n money to hire more PhD students) they just have to deal with the problems of not having enough people.
+ because you hire more PhDs , people will also see this as an oppertunity to get that PhD to become a manager.. it has somewhat of the opposite effect too..


+ one other thing I would like to stretch out ==> its becoming more and more about "being nice" and making friends and getting money rather then doing research...

In "the old days" or even now, most young kids, have this idea that a professor/researcher is someone with a labcoat who was working in a dark lab, doing stuff ... and not being very social..
But this is not accurate anymore.
Today: a professor needs to visit companies, give speeches, attract money, publish a lot of papers etc...
The research part has become smaller and smaller..
And I think (well I am pretty sure of this) that some great scientist out there are not "making it" just because they lack the social skills or are not interested in being very competitive when it comes to scoring grants etc....

A very old (he really is old) professor that I know once told me this: its time for me retire because I am not good at licking ass.

Very simply put: he got tired of all that crap that came with getting funds etc.. It used to be about what he did, but now its becoming more about who you are and how you can sell yourself.

Not sure if you heard of the publications made a few months/weeks ago about "a university for hire" ? This deals about the bigger impact of the industry on research and that its not anymore all that "correct" ... some of the research is influenced etc...

Edited by pito, 01 December 2011 - 06:35 AM.

If you don't know it, then ask it! Better to ask and look foolish to some then not ask and stay stupid.




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