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Thread: To be, or not to be, a PhD student?

  1. #1 To be, or not to be, a PhD student? 
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    From information I've come across recently, being that it is entirely unrealistic to expect to get the job your supervisor or lecturer has, or even to be in research at all, is PhD the right way to go?
    What's also become apparent, is the large number of PhD graduates, that are hired on very short-term contracts, sometimes for only 12 months, and have difficulty finding industry based work.
    Can anyone offer any advice/experience/opinion on the topic of finding employment after getting a PhD?


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    Bullshit Intolerant PhDemon's Avatar
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    I can only give you my perspective as a university academic (YMMV). I finished my PhD in 2002 and was unemployed for a year before I got my first research position (maybe I was too picky, I was holding out for the ideal job, not just a job) which I held for 5 years (on three different short term contracts). Once I had some experience the second and third research jobs (3 year contracts) came quite easily (if you already have a track record people are more willing to employ you) but bear in mind once you want to get a faculty position the competition is very stiff, I've applied for loads in the last year or so and while I often make it to the interview stage I have yet to be offered a job (and I have a very good research track record). Ideally I would stay at the same level I am now doing the research without too much of the admin but that is again unsustainable, once you have two or three positions as a post-doc under your belt you become expensive to employ and it's often cheaper and easier to employ a fresh new PhD graduate than someone who has been around for a while (for example I don't think I would be considered for a post-doc role if I applied for yet another one, they would tell me I was too senior and expect me to apply for a faculty position -- this has happened before, I didn't get it).

    Doing a PhD is something I would never try to talk anyone out of but you need to be sure you are doing it for the right reasons and you need to be realistic about your chances of making it as an academic (if that is what you are thinking about), very few stay in academia until retirement (there are a hell of a lot more PhDs than there are faculty positions). I've pretty much decided that it's time for a career change away from academia (the lack of job security and not being able to get a permananent position are really p***ing me off) and I'm starting to train to be a teacher later this year when my current contract expires.

    Good luck anyway, whatever you decide.


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  4. #3  
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    It seems really messed up, that you can technically be as educated as you possibly can, and still have difficulty finding the job you want. And when you try to get into an industry position, they tell you your PhD is useless, and hire someone who graduated with Honours, or a Masters.
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  5. #4  
    Bullshit Intolerant PhDemon's Avatar
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    I've no idea about the industry side but in academia the thing is everyone is as educated as they possible can be (in that we all have higher degrees, PhDs etc.) and there are not enough jobs for everyone...
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  6. #5  
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    Pretty shit, but fair enough. I just don't like the idea of constantly having to fight for my job, you know?
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    There are more jobs available for master students as compared to PhDs. There are couple of reasons for that and one of the reason is, you are going to be trained in a very specific topic. Finding a job after PhD also depends on many things. For examples: Publications, field of research, contacts, additional internships.
    So you need to consider all these factors before making up your mind.
    I hope that helps.
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  8. #7  
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    Mmm yeh, there would be more jobs. Unfortunately, over here in Australia, PhDs are free, Masters cost anywhere from 25k to 50k.
    I can never know I'm right, but I can know that I'm wrong.
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    Making antisense Jon Moulton's Avatar
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    I finished a Ph.D., taught a bit, then found a biotech industry job I've held for 14 years. There are many possible paths.
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  10. #9  
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    Lucky you! What was your major and PhD in, if you don't mind me asking?
    I can never know I'm right, but I can know that I'm wrong.
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  11. #10  
    Making antisense Jon Moulton's Avatar
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    BS Bio & writing minor, BA Chem, PhD Environmental Sciences and Resources: Biology. I did a cyanobacterial physiology dissertation and had enough of a molecular biology background to find work in antisense.
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  12. #11  
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    mmm yeh, this has crossed my mind, that doing a major in molecular biology would still allow me to get a PhD in neuroscience, and the molecular biology would probably give me more opportunities to pursue non-research related work, if it came to that.
    I can never know I'm right, but I can know that I'm wrong.
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