The first 2 parts of this series have explained that job seekers holding a PhD in science have a large range of different employers and job positions to consider (see recent articles in the Scientists category on “Other Jobs for Scientists, Part I: Working in Science Outside of Traditional Situations” and “Other Jobs for Scientists, Part II: Research Jobs in Industry or Government Labs”). Some provide opportunities for continuing to work in laboratory research, while others involve science and research only indirectly (i.e., science-related jobs). Yet other possibilities do not involve science or research at all. Many in this last group can be seen as being very unconventional jobs for scientists. The nature of such unusual employment, and advice about how to find or create it, is presented and discussed in Part III below.
Finding science-related jobs for science PhD’s
Traditionally, a career in scientific research or any other business can be considered as being analogous to climbing a ladder. This viewpoint necessarily means that if you are not able to step onto the first rung of the ladder (i.e., find some type of first job), then there is zero chance that you will ever be able to climb up that particular ladder. However, once you have acquired some job and accomplished something (i.e., have moved up to rung number 2 or 3 by doing well and learning more during 1-2 years), it also becomes realistically possible to jump onto a different ladder (i.e., to switch to a different and better job). Yes, experience makes a big difference! Each job seeker must find their own path to a good job.
For some young scientists, it can be difficult to find a traditional research job either at universities, industrial research and development centers, or government research facilities. In such cases, it is necessary to become more flexible about theoretical possibilities and realistic practicalities. A key major question you must face is how much you as a scientist are determined to work only on research activities. If you will consider working with science at non-traditional venues, or working on science-related jobs that do not directly involve lab research, then very many additional possibilities for employment will arise. I already have introduced many examples of different science-related employment positions in Part I.
Becoming unconventional in your job search
The more doors that remain open, the greater choice of jobs you will have. Restricting where and what you are looking at necessarily closes some doors. What if nothing works in your search for employment and all seems hopeless? Then, it is time to learn to think very much more creatively! Even if you are only seeking a conventional kind of job, using unconventional approaches might give you an advantage or open some more doors.
Many new science PhD’s and Postdocs must escape from the straightjacket of traditional academic research, and learn to consider other possibilities outside universities and even outside science. If these are unconventional, so what? I once actually encountered a professional driver for a limousine company with a PhD; he likes to talk with scholarly overtones to me and all his many different clients about philosophy and politics, and seemed quite happy doing that! I doubt that he ever planned to be a fulltime professional driver; it is possible that he first tried this job only as some temporary work, and then unexpectedly came to realize that this unconventional position suited his individual situation very nicely.
I consider Edwin H. Land as a spectacularly creative scientist and admirable human (see my earlier article in the Scientists category on “Curiosity, Creativity, Inventiveness, and Individualism in Science”). Land did not seek a job, but instead he created one for himself! Actually, he created several jobs for himself (i.e., scientist, educator, engineer, industrialist, and visionary)! Even in his early college days, he was so determined to do experimental research that he got permission to work at night on his own research in a professor’s empty laboratory; he went on to continue to do research on several subjects during his later years running the Polaroid Corporation. Probably, none of us has the same magic that emanated from Prof. Land, but you can try to copy his creative spirit when seeking to find a suitable job for yourself. Can you do that? Try it and see!
There are many different ways to create your own job. If you can form some small business operation, you can hire yourself! If you can convince a company that they need some new service, and if you can provide exactly such, then you might have created your own job! If you can invent something new and useful to others, you can either manufacture and market it, or sell the idea or patent! If you can innovate some new software that others will want to utilize, then you can license it for use or establish a new computer company! If you do not have enough money to be able to start something like this, you can borrow funds from family or friends, or you can work temporarily at some ordinary job until you have saved enough capital; another approach is to try to win support via crowd-funding [e.g., 1-3]. Be imaginative in what you try to do!
Miscellaneous advice for job seekers from Dr.M
New scientists should never forget that you do indeed already have some valuable skills and experience in science and research, or you would not have succeeded in earning your doctoral degree. Hence, you can have confidence in your own abilities to overcome the problems with finding a suitable job! Besides your own self, you already have many external resources to help your search; never hesitate to consult with your former thesis advisor, postdoctoral mentor(s), favorite teachers, fellow research workers, and good friends about the current status of your job search.
Be vigorous in your job hunt, and always show self-confidence, initiative, determination, and a high energy level. Check out everything, not just the most likely prospects. As one colleague helpfully explained to me long ago, the time to worry about salary level and which desk you will have is only after you have received a job offer, not before. Be willing to move if that is required for a job that you know would be good for you. Be flexible. Always be 100% honest during interviews, and emphasize how you are well-suited for the particular job opening you are applying for.
If you are looking in unconventional areas or trying to create a new job for yourself, then never limit your imagination. Try to see more than everyone else does. One of my own university science teachers retired at age 65 and then took several art courses to learn how to paint. Within just a few years, her canvasses were selling and she was the featured artist at several shows and galleries in other states. None of us students ever guessed that she also had a hidden talent as an artist. She said unconventionally that for her, science and art have many similarities.
The main message in Part III is that job seekers with a science PhD should be imaginative and creative, and should not hesitate to consider nontraditional employment possibilities.
Your main message for this entire series (Parts I-III) is that a PhD in science qualifies you for very many different types of employment, including positions that do not involve laboratory research or working in traditional job sites.
Dr.M wishes all doctoral scientists much good fortune with their search for a suitable and satisfying job!
 Kickstarter, 2014. Kickstarter – Start a project. Available on the internet at: https://www.kickstarter.com/learn?ref=nav .
 Rice, H., 2013. Crowdfunding, Overview. The New York Academy of Sciences, Academy eBriefings, October 9, 2013. Available on the internet at: http://www.nyas.org/publications/EBriefings/Detail.aspx?cid=82c4e4b4-f200-49b3-b333-c41e1e2f46aa .
 Schmitt, D., 2013, Crowdfunding science: could it work? Higher Education Network, The Guardian, Nov. 11, 2013. Available on the internet at: http://www.theguardian.com/higher-education-network/blog/2013/nov/11/science-research-funding-crowdfunding-excellence .
GO BACK TO HOME PAGE OR SCROLL UP TO MENU
UNDER THE WEBSITE TITLE