If you are a life science Ph.D., or are on your way to getting one, and are thinking about what to do next, here are five common jobs people choose after graduating:
Unsurprisingly, 80 percent of life science Ph.D. grads go on to do an academic postdoc. This is because 95 percent of Ph.D. students want to stay in academia and a postdoc is the next logical step in an academic career. However, it may not be the best choice for you as there are far more Ph.D. grads than tenured and tenure-track positions and only 5 - 16 percent of Ph.D. grads will eventually have their own lab. Also, for the first 15 years of their careers, postdocs, even those who eventually transition into an industry job, eventually earn 17 - 21 percent less than people who go straight into industry after a Ph.D.
Yes such a thing exists. Most big pharma and many big biotech companies including Pfizer, Janssen, AstraZeneca and Genetech (now part of Roche) have postdoctoral programs. They offer many of the same benefits as an academic postdoc with mentors and opportunities to publish and present work both internally and externally at conferences, but with the added bonus of learning how scientific discoveries are translated into products in an industry setting. Salaries are also much higher than for academic postdocs, starting at around $70,000/year with additional fringe benefits usually including: medical, dental and vision insurances; life and disability insurance; 401(k) and paid vacation time.
These positions differ from industry postdocs in that you are not working on an entire project, you are contributing to a project. You will be told what experiments to do and will have less freedom than a postdoc. However, you will still have the opportunity to learn how a pharma or biotech company works and will be able to move up in R&D or move laterally into communications, business development or other roles.
When Ph.D. students and postdocs are thinking about non-academic careers, science communications is often at the top of their list. Science communication is a hugely diverse field encompassing many different types of jobs and sub-fields including science journalism, marketing, public relations, institutional communications, medical and technical writing, medical science liaisons and public education and outreach. The list is huge. If you like to write and present information and think this field will suit you, talk to someone who works in SciComm to work out which job would be best the best fit for you.
If you want to work in industry but don't want to do bench research, sales can be a good entry-level position. It allows you to learn about how the company works and you can work your way up and across into business development, product management or project management. It takes time to find a new job so it really helps if you can make the time to start researching jobs, building skills and networking at least 12 months before you want to transition.