I’m not a special snowflake

When I started graduate school, I knew I didn’t want to do the tenure track professor thing. To be successful, I’d have to work harder than I think I can physically work and harder than I know I want to work [Seriously, it’s really hard to even get your foot in the door]. But I really, really, really love doing research. So I’ve been thinking a lot about how I can do what I love and also afford pretty shoes (or at least student loan payments). Unfortunately for me, I’ll be competing with a ton of other people who can do the sorts of things I can do who also love research. And they probably work harder than me. It’s enough to keep me up at night.

As part of my routine what-the-heck-am-I-going-to-do-when-I-graduate panic, I read about non-academic career options for scientists and what happens to science PhDs after they disappear from academia. A recent paper in PLOS ONE about what people with science PhDs want to do (and are encouraged to do) included this figure.

Scientists like research and telling people how cool the world is, not selling shit. (Sauermann & Roach 2012)

Basically, it says that people who get science PhDs like research and teaching, but we hate turning our beautiful ideas into simplified, commercialized crap and selling it. Also we think paperwork is awful. I can handle a little more management/admin than average, but otherwise I’m pretty much like all the other science PhDs, which means I’m going to have an awful hard time finding a job anywhere near my interests. Eeek.

A lot of scientific societies and universities are trying to do more to help new PhDs find jobs outside of academia, but a lot of times their efforts really fall flat.



  1. oikosjournal says:

    Hey, you have a real advantage blogging like this! A big step towards simplifying, commercializing research! Don’t ever get stuck in the idea that you are just like anyone else! You have some unique skills, it’s just about identifying them!

  2. jearmstr says:

    The academic world is not just composed of big research universities, and many of us do quite well, and do decent research, at undergraduate institutions where a very different set of skills are required. Oh, it’s still a lot of work, but many of us find it quite fulfilling working at the undergrad level.

    • Sarcozona says:

      I’m hesitant about a job that requires so much teaching, but it’s good to be reminded that there’s a lot of academia outside of tenure track positions at MRUs.

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