Category Archives: Beyond the Academy


No Means No

Please join me in giving a standing ovation to Danielle N. Lee, writer of the Urban Scientist blog for Scientific American. In case you’ve been under a rock (or pile of urgent work) for the past week or so, an anonymous editor at Biology Online asked if Ms. Lee would become a regular blogger for his organization. When Ms. Lee inquired about the details, including compensation, and then declined to become a contributor, the editor asked her, “Are you an urban scientist or an urban whore?” Ms. Lee…


The Geography of Hiring in Alternate STEM Careers

Do you know where you’d like to live? To borrow from Aesop, are you a city mouse or a country mouse or perhaps, like me, a suburban mouse? What kind of weather do you enjoy, or wish to avoid, whether that’s blistering heat or months of dark, snowy days? Do you prefer the indoors, or do you crave fresh air?

I am truly surprised by how few students receive career counseling that urges them to consider not only their aptitudes and skills, but also what kind of whole life they want to live. Because …


Beyond the Bench: a Career in Technology Transfer

Becoming a technology-transfer professional is a great alternative career for people with advanced degrees in the STEM fields. Technology transfer is the process of commercializing research, including evaluating a discovery for its commercial merit, protecting a discovery via patents and copyrights, and licensing it to either a start-up or established company. Professionals who work in universities’ tech-transfer offices frequently have formal training in science, law, business, or all three.



Ph.D. Chemist for Hire

How brutal is the job market for chemists? Apparently, it’s so bad that one Ph.D. chemist’s husband has announced on Reddit that he’ll pay a finders fee of up to $8,000 to anyone who finds his wife a job:

My wife has a Ph.D. in physical chemistry (Qualifications below), an exemplary track record during her post doc, and is driven, smart, capable, and a quick study. She finished her post doc last year in August and has been frantically seeking employment since. Eight months, and 46 applications i…


From Ph.D. to Patent Lawyer

This post is the first in an occasional series about specific alternative career paths for STEM Ph.D.’s. I probably know 50 Ph.D.’s who are now practicing intellectual-property law; it’s the most-followed alternate path among my colleagues. A few of them decided on that career path during graduate school, but most turned to intellectual-property law later, after deciding that they’d had enough time at the bench but still wanted a job that would allow them to use their scientific background.



Soft Skills for Scientists

You’re a science Ph.D. seeking a job outside academe, but you’re not sure you have the requisite skills. The good news is you’re probably more prepared than you think. Nonacademic hirers want people who are self-starters and who can work independently. You already possess all of these skills, and more.

As a Ph.D. scientist, you’re capable of asking and answering important questions that build on current knowledge and advance our understanding of our world. You’re accustomed to coming up with and…


Choosing an Adviser Who Can Help You Leave Academe

Many, if not most, doctoral students enter graduate school with the hope of becoming faculty members. But graduate students at the University of California at Berkeley recently hosted a conference, titled “Beyond Academia,” that focused on landing nonacademic jobs. The conference sold out.

According to a Berkeley news release, “a study published last year in the journal Science suggests that only 20 percent of U.S. doctoral students in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics will land …


Know Your Worth and Ask for It

Many years ago, I had dinner with my wise friend Sheila Campbell, who used to run a very successful advertising business in Washington, D.C. She related this story to me.

When we hired at the agency, we interviewed candidates, decided which one we wanted to hire, and then asked for that person’s salary requirements. If we could afford the requested salary, we would make an offer. One year when I was reviewing the books, I realized (to my growing horror) that I was paying men much more than women…


Write a Grant Proposal, Start a Company, Create Your Own Job

Given reports that fewer recently minted life-sciences Ph.D.’s are landing full-time academic jobs while more are spending an increasing number of years as postdocs, it may be time to consider some alternatives.

One alternative is to create your own job. If you are a graduate student or a postdoctoral fellow working on a project that has potential commercial value (i.e., it could result in a product that someone will buy), consider turning the project into your first job.

How? First, disclose yo…


How Did I Get Here?

The STEM paradox: At a time when we have a national dialogue about the dearth of students pursuing these degrees, newly minted Ph.D.’s are having a harder time landing academic jobs.

In a recent Chronicle op-ed article, Amanda Shea, a doctoral student at Virginia Tech, discusses the ever-worsening odds of landing an academic research position in the sciences, as well as the need for meaningful alternate career paths and better graduate training for Ph.D.’s. In future posts, I hope to write about…