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> Congratulations with your PhD degree! Now what?
Congratulations with your PhD degree! Now what?
Being a graduate student in short means you will work long hours on a question that most people don’t know anything about nor care to know anything about. And we love doing it. But what happens after 5-6 years of trying to answer a ‘simple’ question, some publications and a dissertation?
The obvious choice is to do what your professor did: do a postdoc, get a tenure-track position at a university and become tenured faculty. Sounds simple and straightforward. There are some problems with this apprentice-like model of an academic career (a great editorial in EMBO J about this subject). What are the odds you will actually make it all the way?
National Science Foundation (NSF) released today some nice graphics of post-graduation trends for various fields, including Life Sciences. About 67% of us will probably do a post-doc according to this data. According to an article in the HHMI bulletin, only 37% of postdocs will become a tenure-track professor (no data on how many actually become tenured). This means that less than 25% of us will get a shot at becoming a tenured faculty. In other words, over 75% of us will ultimately do something else. With more and more PhDs being produced by universities across the US, this problem is only going to grow, as a recent edition of Nature pointed out.
So what other options are there besides following in the footsteps of your professor? Here at Davis there is a interdisciplinary group, called the Designated Emphasis in Biotechnology (DEB), where students get in contact with various aspects of biotechnology. If you are a student of the DEB, you also have to do a 3 month internship at a biotech company — a way of supplementing your PhD with a more diverse experience. During the academic year, every Friday they bring in a person from a biotech company to talk about the company and highlight what is available for current PhD students once they have their degree.
There are also jobs available for us outside academia and the biotech, such as becoming a science writer or a high-school/college teacher or become an editor at a journal or work for a government lab. With the skills you learn as a scientist, many doors are open: you only have to look for the doors to find them. To help with the looking, BMCDB students are organizing a new seminar series that will highlight various people who have taken on jobs in a non-academic and non-biotech (why duplicate what is already being provided) field. On every second Tuesday of the month during the Fall, Winter and Spring quarters we will have a Career Options Seminar. Soon we will update you with a list of the speakers. Exciting times (besides a slowing economy and a disfunctional congress).