The New PhD – Take Home Messages From What Can You Be (WCUB) With a PhD and More


Note from the author: This is a point of view piece on the state of academics in America. Data from this article was pulled from the 2017 Survey of Earned Doctorates and data presented at the “What Can You Be With a PhD?” Conference in 2017. 

Oversupply of PhDs Creates a Tough Environment

The academic field breeds competition because there is not enough jobs and funding. Low funding leads to stressed advisors. Low academics jobs for new PhDs leads to high demands for more qualified PhDs. To get that academic career, more publications are needed, more funding is needed, and overall more time is needed.

Increasing Your Knowledge of PhD Careers Can Improve Quality of Life

There are other jobs for PhDs that can be gratifying and beneficial. An academic career does not need to be the penultimate. Other jobs in industry or on the path to commercialization do exist. These jobs are outlined and in a figure here – “Discovery to Development PhD Careers in Industry.”

Academics is now like making it to the Major Leagues in Baseball 

Many PhD students do not know other career options. It is not possible for all PhDs to make it.

Key Numbers

50,000 earned doctorates a year

3,000 faculty openings a year

89% of students start PhD wanting to be professor

83% of postdocs want to professors at start of postdoc

Here are the numbers in graphical form. More PhD numbers in our previous article,  “PhDs by the Numbers.”

The PhD Numbers

Oversupply allows increased selectivity of University Search Committees

Now that the there is an oversupply of academics, Universities and Colleges can be more selective. They can ask for people with the 5-year postdoc and 2 PNAS papers… or something else.

Alternative Careers are not that Alternative

The demand for PhDs in academics is constant. Alternatively, there are careers that require PhDs in industry that revolve around innovation and discovery in America.

Many Options for PhDs in Non-Academic Careers

They are Medical Science Liaisons, Medical Writers, Pharma Scientists, Clinical Scientists, Experts, Regulatory Experts, FDA specialists, engineers, quality control, batch control, consultants solving problems that occur in this field, there are business development, office of tech transfer, careers at museums, academies, and non-profit organizations.

There are jobs in new companies, exciting places for entrepreneurs, or more risk or more passionate people. People who ask for VC funding, or business grants. There are entrepreneurial consultants, and VCs that fund new companies that they come up with or that someone else has.

These jobs are outlined and in a figure here – “Discovery to Development PhD Careers in Industry.”

Non-Academic Careers in Industry STILL Relate Back to Academic Research

These are NOT ALTERNATIVE careers. Academics is a small portion. The U.S. is great for pharma, medical devices and startups. It’s also great for academic to business idea transfer and entrepreneurs. Your PhD skills transfer nicely to these jobs!

If You So Desire to Teach… You Can With Higher Chances

Finally, it is still possible to teach at a University or College. Your PhD opens up these possibilities. Some Universities or Colleges do not focus on research. Instead, these institutions focus on teaching.

These institutions are commonly liberal arts Universities or Colleges. To be competitive for one of these jobs it is wise to get teaching experience.

At PhD Sourcewe want to deliver the most help possible! If this article was helpful or related to you in a particular way, please reach out via email or leave a comment below! 


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