What Can You Be With a PhD?
by Barbara Orelli
|As I am approaching the end of my Ph.D. study, questions about what I am going to do afterwards are nagging me everyday. The main doubt that I have is whether I should do a postdoc or not? If yes, do I stay in academia or do I switch to industry? If not, what else could I do? I guess there are a lot of students out there who struggle with a similar uncertainty. In order to help students address these issues the academic institutions in the New York area created a symposium “What can you be with a PhD?”. The name of the event couldn’t have been more appropriate. The main aim of this convention was to inform graduate students and postdocs about the different career opportunities after completion of a doctoral degree.|
This year, the 7th edition of this two-day meeting was held at the NYU Langone Medical Center and hosted more than 1000 young scientists. The event was divided into workshops on different career paths. Representatives of each sector shared their experiences and their precious advice. It also provided a great opportunity for networking. After each session speakers were surrounded by students who sought additional information or had specific questions. The networking continued during a reception on Friday afternoon, during which big heads of institutes and industry enjoyed a glass of wine and some cheese together with current and future jobseekers. Of course it was also a high traffic area for business cards.
The list of alternative careers in the life science sector is long and varied: ranging from careers in the business world to scientific consulting, from becoming a research investigator to a medical writer, and many more. I find this multi-faceted aspect of science intriguing, a combination of science and personal skills. Indeed, all the above-mentioned jobs differ a lot from each other in terms of responsibilities, expectations, working environment, daily duties and they require specific sets of skills. But they all contain a common denominator: the scientific background. Anyone who intends to pursue a career in the life science sector, at the bench or away, will have a head start if he obtains a Ph.D. degree. The experience and the knowledge earned as a doctoral candidate blended with personal, innate skills will prove advantageous. All of us graduate students are working hard to benefit from that advantage, and once we have it, the PhD will be a key that opens any door. A passe-partout.