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froghopper

what do scientists do after leaving academia?

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Itseems to me that Science is a bit of a pyramid scheme, with too many people doing PhDs and higher stages to progress far up the academic career ladder. What successful careers have people had after half a career as an academic?

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Not a scientist, so just my 2 cents,

I'm on Quora a lot, from various things I've read on there, Goldman Sachs seems to be fond of people with a PhD in physics. Some of their best people have backgrounds in physics. To do with analysis and things like that. Money's not bad either.

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47 minutes ago, froghopper said:

Itseems to me that Science is a bit of a pyramid scheme, with too many people doing PhDs and higher stages to progress far up the academic career ladder. What successful careers have people had after half a career as an academic?

My wife started a career in health administration. 

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1 hour ago, froghopper said:

Itseems to me that Science is a bit of a pyramid scheme, with too many people doing PhDs and higher stages to progress far up the academic career ladder. What successful careers have people had after half a career as an academic?

Why half? I left academia after my first postdoc, and I would argue I am having a successful career.

It only looks like a pyramid scheme if you assume academia is the only career path that you can/should follow.

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14 minutes ago, swansont said:

Why half? I left academia after my first postdoc, and I would argue I am having a successful career.

It only looks like a pyramid scheme if you assume academia is the only career path that you can/should follow.

Thanks swansont. What do you do? I guess some people do a PhD with a view to not going into academia afterwards, seems a bit disingenuous to to me as it is presumed you will be going into academia.

 

52 minutes ago, zapatos said:

My wife started a career in health administration. 

Does she enjoy it? Would she rather have stayed in research?

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6 minutes ago, froghopper said:

Thanks swansont. What do you do?

I work in a government lab. I build atomic clock for the navy at the Naval Observatory.

6 minutes ago, froghopper said:

I guess some people do a PhD with a view to not going into academia afterwards, seems a bit disingenuous to to me as it is presumed you will be going into academia.

Presumed by whom? Scientists tend to be able to do math and extrapolate from incomplete data. I don’t think many science grad students are all that surprised that most PhD’s can’t go into academia.

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25 minutes ago, froghopper said:

I guess some people do a PhD with a view to not going into academia afterwards, seems a bit disingenuous to to me as it is presumed you will be going into academia.

Maybe by you. Don't project onto others.

25 minutes ago, froghopper said:

Does she enjoy it? Would she rather have stayed in research?

She loves it. She has found it much more satisfying than research. 

Her doctorate in cellular and developmental biology worked quite well for her in a hospital setting.

Many people get degrees to complement their career choice rather than to define their career choice.

 

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1 hour ago, swansont said:

I left academia after my first postdoc, and I would argue I am having a successful career.

Maybe that 'pass the time' job you do for the Government.
Certainly not this unpaid gig, which takes up most of your time, as a forum administrator.

:P

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Just now, MigL said:

Maybe that 'pass the time' job you do for the Government.
Certainly not this unpaid gig, which takes up most of your time, as a forum administrator.

:P

Unpaid, but all the cheez nips I could ever want.

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On 1/2/2021 at 2:01 PM, froghopper said:

Itseems to me that Science is a bit of a pyramid scheme, with too many people doing PhDs and higher stages to progress far up the academic career ladder. What successful careers have people had after half a career as an academic?

In academia there is a huge gap between tenure-track/tenured (as well as otherwise permanent) positions and non-permanent ones (e.g. postdocs). The latter I would not consider a career (and certainly not the half of ones career) as such but at best as prerequisites.

It is also a misconception that a PhD mandates an academic career to begin with. It may have been that the path to an academic career was easier in the olden days (way, way, way back) but it hasn't been so for decades.

Part of it is the mentioned oversupply of PhDs, but it only looks lopsided if you only consider the academic track (which really, you should not). In reality, the vast majority of jobs are found outside academia, such as industrial jobs (the biggest chunk), public sector and so on. About 20 years back the numbers were roughly 20-25% of PhDs making an academic career, a number that has been dropping constantly from years prior. I do not have current values but chances are that they are even lower now.

At the same time there has been some inflation with regards to PhD requirements in industry and some positions which used to be held by MScs often require a PhD now. In terms of types of jobs there are a lot, ranging from sales, support, product and project management and so on. There is also R&D but it tends to be a smaller slice.

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So I know a good few people with PhDs, myself included. Mostly physics but some biology and at lease one languages...

Of those the vast majority no long work in academia. Some did postdocs, some did not. Doing a PhD isn't just about learning/researching your topic it is about developing research skills and toolsets. 

I would say people fall into a few different sectors, technical software companies (mostly modelling software), academia (the minority), research for commercial companies, telecoms companies and working for government agencies. Hardly anyone works on a topic closely or even loosely related to their PhD. 

Some jobs people do include software engineering, technical sales, technical after sales support, translating between technical teams working in different languages, research, hardware development, product development (both physical and digital), fault modelling, data science in various forms etc...

I don't talk much about my work on here, I joined my organisation at a graduate level with a PhD, not unlike many of my friends, 8.5 years ago. Compared to others with a master's who joined at a similar time I'm more senior than them now. To the point where I've chosen to not manage people and concentrate on research. I would say that that is not atypical for people with a PhD, join the same and out pace them in a couple of years.

When working with people you can normally tell who went through a PhD by the speed at which they onboard with a project, the rapidity of generating and dismissing ideas etc... It's surprisingly noticeable even when dealing with people of similar experience and time with the organisation. 

I'm very glad I'm no longer in academia. My contemparairies have less job security and far more pressure from their colleagues for few benefits. 

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59 minutes ago, Klaynos said:

I'm very glad I'm no longer in academia. My contemparairies have less job security and far more pressure from their colleagues for few benefits. 

I think it depends a lot on the level. Once you secured tenure (which is a big if) job security is as good, if not better than in an industrial position. However, before that, I agree that an academic career is far more uncertain. I would also agree to some extent with the benefits. There are few objective benefits, most of the motivation for pursuing an academic career is internal (and to a certain degree probably masochistic).  

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6 minutes ago, CharonY said:

I think it depends a lot on the level. Once you secured tenure (which is a big if) job security is as good, if not better than in an industrial position. However, before that, I agree that an academic career is far more uncertain. I would also agree to some extent with the benefits. There are few objective benefits, most of the motivation for pursuing an academic career is internal (and to a certain degree probably masochistic).  

I agree. Having friends who were on short term contracts for 20 years makes me somewhat cynical. 

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Just now, Klaynos said:

I agree. Having friends who were on short term contracts for 20 years makes me somewhat cynical. 

Absolutely, I know a couple of researchers, some really excellent ones that basically were temps until their retirement (or close to). The system is not really good if things like predictive career planning, high income, job security early on, work-life balance are important to you.

Eh, I made myself sad now.

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2 hours ago, Klaynos said:

I agree. Having friends who were on short term contracts for 20 years makes me somewhat cynical. 

What, you don’t like rolling 3 month contracts completely contingent on obtaining a portion of the ever-dwindling pools of grant money available? Weird. 

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5 hours ago, hypervalent_iodine said:

What, you don’t like rolling 3 month contracts completely contingent on obtaining a portion of the ever-dwindling pools of grant money available? Weird. 

Three months? Gosh, you guys must be rolling in money!

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On 1/2/2021 at 8:01 PM, froghopper said:

 What successful careers have people had after half a career as an academic?

Running physics labs in the private sector. Main reason being higher salaries.

All the best.

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