The Road Ahead for Life Science PhDs – The Industry Options  


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December 18, 2020 7:30 pm  

Getting a PhD is always a very big achievement, more so if one has received that degree from a prestigious institution.

Many who are interested in pursuing a PhD do so mainly because of love for “science”. There is no better happiness but to see or find something novel during the course of various experiments that one undertakes during this journey.

Of course, out of 100 experiments maybe 90 would fail but that teaches us tremendous levels of perseverance and patience. What is not taught in most institutions is the career path that a budding scientist can take!

Most PhDs go for post doctoral research, which is a kind of bridge between getting an academic/industry position and PhD training. Although, it could be the most productive phase of one’s career, many times that may not be true. In addition, being a post doctoral researcher for long not only dents the individual’s morale, but also reduces your chance of getting a meaningful employment later. So what are the options?

Not everyone can pursue their academic dream, so for the rest, industry does provide an alternative if one is receptive enough. There are many options a PhD can look at:

• Consultancy jobs – Pharma consultancy jobs require good analytical skills, and PhDs generally fit the bill perfectly. However, this is a completely different domain and requires new skill sets, which many would possess, but may not realize till they start working for such organizations.

• Industry R&D – Here, I think many PhDs would feel comfortable. However, industry research is completely different from academic. Stricter timelines and deadlines are the norm. So one has to quickly adjust to the new environment.

• Business Development – This is a domain for those who like presenting or networking with people. Not all PhDs are comfortable with this career path, and therefore, before getting into this, one has to be clear about the road map. This generally also requires a lot of travelling. One has to always achieve and sometimes surpass the ‘targets’ set by their organization, and it can become quite a challenge for some. However, with good support and skills, one can become successful in this field.

• Application Scientists – This is also a good domain for people who are technically good and like travelling, but are averse to chasing ‘numbers’. Many big organizations like ThermoFisher, Illumina etc. have an army of application scientists. Initially one has to be in the field but slowly one climbs up the ladder and is required to manage the team of scientists.

• Scientific writing/Editing – Many PhDs who are technically good, love reading/writing, and have a good command of English, can look at this option. Many companies like Cactus communications advertize for editors/sub editors in various fields of life science.

• Recruitment – Although this is probably the least favorite among PhDs, it does provide another job alternative. Many recruitment agencies hire PhDs to scan and analyze multiple CVs they get, so that the right person is shortlisted for the right job interviews.

• IP/Technology Transfer – This is another exciting domain. Although this requires some experience and few additional courses/skill sets, it can be very rewarding both financially and professionally.

There might be other alternatives available to PhDs. My aim here was not to provide an exhaustive list but to give a glimpse of the avenues present. All of the above options carry their respective pros and cons. So, it is imperative, that an individual first assesses himself before selecting one of the paths. Good luck to all present and budding PhDs.