7 Lesser Known Industry Careers That PhDs Rave About 6 Months After Getting Hired

Are you stuck? Not knowing where to start?

Does the PhD industry careers seem limited but competitive?

I understand but… that’s not the case.

To clarify, there are numerous industry positions however PhDs fixate on a popular few.

Unlike academia where positions are limited and stratified, industry offers a diverse option of career tracks. 

In other words, academia limits the mindset, as a result, PhDs prefer to go with titles that sound synonymous with their academic counterparts. Overcome that academic mindset.

On the other hand, some PhDs research the industry positions and apply to the lesser known industry roles that match their skill set. 

I have witnessed many PhDs transition into these lesser known industry roles and rave about it for months on Cheeky Scientists. 

This is what one of our Cheeky Scientist Associates had to say about their industry position months after transitioning into the role – 

I’m a business development manager. For me, the role is a lot about connecting with clients, trying to find the appropriate clients to reach to. At the same time also working cross-functionally within the in-house teams, the operation, the R & D teams. I still have to design every single study that comes through the door. So that’s where all of my postdoc and PhD experience comes into it. I still have to have that scientific knowledge to design any kind of study and then work with the internal team to make sure that it’s feasible on the agreed timelines. So it’s the best combination between the business side, where you have to connect with clients, talk about the business, the money aspect, but at the same time, it’s still scientific because you have to design each of the studies. So, it’s the best of both worlds in my opinion.

A Popular Job Title Versus Lesser Known Careers That Are Fulfilling Long Term

Less is more!

Although there are numerous job specifications in the industry- unlike academia- PhDs target only a selected few. Meanwhile, multi-tasking, undefined job descriptions are common in academia. This mind-set demarcates invisible boundaries for academic PhDs and postdocs. Hence, they apply for well-known positions instead of exploring the other available positions. 

Industry roles are well-defined without any cross-over job responsibilities. There are more defined deliverables and the positions tend to be associated with the individual’s specific responsibilities. 

Industry has a diverse network of specialized job titles. 

So, the lesser known job titles in the industry are great career tracks that provide long term fulfillment. 

Let’s discuss a few of the lesser known industry job titles.

1. Quality Control/Quality Assurance

This a much lesser known career option. It can be one of the most financially lucrative professional roles for PhDs. The biopharma industry has a huge need for PhDs in quality control and quality assurance. In this role, PhDs monitor manufacturing operations and ensure the quality of the products before it goes into the market. 

Quality Control (QC) professionals evaluate the products, manufacturing & research facilities, and the raw materials for manufacturing. PhDs in these roles perform standard assays for evaluating products and establish specifications and standard operating procedures for QC processes. 

Quality assurance (QA) professionals ensure that the organization’s processes of testing, documenting data, and manufacturing complies with the specific regulatory requirements for that sector. As a QA professional you will analyze data, evaluate documentation, and conduct site audits to scan for irregularities. 

You need specific technical skills and understand the regulatory laws and standard operating procedures clearly to be suited for this profession. Effective communication, leadership, organizational, planning, teamwork, working autonomously, problem-solving, conflict-resolution, industry-specific technical knowledge are crucial traits for this job.

2. Business Development Manager

What on earth does a doctoral degree have to do with business development?”

Well, the truth is PhDs actually have a lot to do with business development. Especially the role of a business development manager. There is a high demand for PhDs in these roles. PhDs have to work with the operations and R & D teams to generate study design. You utilize your experience as a postdoc and PhD to create the study design, analyze its scientific feasibility, and set timelines for flawless execution. It requires PhDs to focus on developing new business opportunities, managing existing products, mapping the market strategy and building new business partnerships. Business development manager role is the best of both worlds: client-facing, budget-making business side; and evidence-based scientific acumen. You should have the business acumen to identify new opportunities, research leads. You need strong interpersonal skills to establish relationships with potential clients. 

Communication, information literacy, expert planning strategies, strategic and logical decision making, negotiation skills and creative thinking are indispensable to be hired as a business development manager.

Understand the target markets and identify the market strategies to attract clients. Collaborate with design and sales teams to ensure that requirements are met. Have a strong understanding of company products, competition in the market and positioning. Follow the latest industry developments and stay up-to-date on corporate competitors. 

Leverage your  research, analysis, and communication skills to help companies create long term plans to ensure growth and increase in revenue to excel as a business development manager.

3. Clinical Affairs Associate

Clinical affairs associates provide implementation of clinical trials through administrative and project management support. PhDs in this role work cross-departmentally  to coordinate with all members of the Clinical Affairs team and internal and external stakeholders for the successful execution of the clinical study. CAAs identify and report issues in the work process for back-tracking deficiencies. 

Strong verbal and written communication skills, teamwork, collaboration, priority setting, decision making, troubleshooting, attention to detail and organizational skills are the essential requirements for this role. 

PhDs work independently and collaboratively as part of the clinical study team to meet the study objectives and timelines.

The advanced program, the Clinical Research Coalition (CRC) is a great resource for you to gain this industry knowledge and sharpen your skills.

4. Patent Analyst

The Patent Analyst position is similar to a Patent Examiner position, but is more advanced as it requires more research, analysis, and innovation skills. Currently, PhDs are aggressively hired into these roles. Patent Analysts sit under the intellectual property umbrella and their job is to review potential patent applications. They work for companies that are developing products. Patent Analysts analyze if the company’s products can be patented. Even before its manufacture. In this role you have to do a lot of investigative work. You have to investigate whether comparable items have been patented or pending approval. 

The key transferable skills needed are detailed subject knowledge, attention to detail, technical writing skills, and the ability to conduct research to find specific relevant information.

Patent Analyst roles will leverage your skills as a PhD, your research analysis skills, your understanding of innovation.

5. Quantitative/Data Analyst

Can you professionally analyze data?

Quantitative analysts, or financial quantitative analysts, establish and implement complex mathematical models used by financial firms to make decisions about risk management, investments and pricing. PhDs handle, analyze and present data in an effective manner to be hired into this role. Quantitative analyst perform quantitative data analysis, financial research, statistical modeling, and pattern recognition related to predicting trades. Eventually, you have to become proficient in using customized software packages. For instance, the softwares designed for making forecasts, predicting market trends, and analyzing data. 

Analytical problem-solving; logical thinking, enduring long hours with computer code and data, are essential for this job. PhDs would need to communicate ideas to the management, stakeholders and contributors effectively to facilitate business decisions. 

The ability to work under pressure and with little supervision is a desirable trait among quantitative analysts

6. Business Intelligence Analyst

Are you able to transform information about competitors into actionable intelligence for your own organization? Can you change data into actionable business insights?

Business intelligence analysts comb through large amounts of data by querying databases effectively, to produce reports and identify trends to generate actionable business insights. Most importantly, they provide a vertical bridge through the business to communicate highly valuable information to support the demands of effective decision making. To be hired as a business intelligence analyst, you must have a range of skills in big data, data analysis, and a keen business understanding. 

Gather valuable information about your competitor’s products , even inventions in the pipeline. Critically analyze their effects on your company and its market. Consequently, your input will identify opportunities and threats well in advance for management to devise strategies to compete with the rivals. Don’t misinterpret it as unethical or spying. You gather these information through several ethical and legal sources. Through key opinion leaders (KOLs) in the specific field, attend scientific conferences or through online resources. 

The key transferable skills that business intelligence analysts bring to work are technical, analytic and problem solving skills, business acumen, communication expertise .

7. Technical Support

Are you good at listening, planning, and organizing process operations? Do you have empathy?

Technical support scientist is a client-facing role that commands strong technical scientific knowledge. You must have empathy to solve the customer’s problem. PhDs in this role have a  deep understanding of the product portfolio. They possess troubleshooting, market needs and firm scientific knowledge of the field to provide answers, product recommendations or application support.

You will work cross-functionally across several departments and disciplines to provide feedback about products, document and resolve customer issues and complaints in a timely manner. Sound knowledge of the product and identifying product discrepancies to recommend possible solutions is key to this role.

Attention to detail, active listening, strong communication skills, problem-solving and persuasive skills are important for this role. 

The position is associated with tremendous growth, technical expertise and sound knowledge. Therefore, these roles promote PhD transition into other departments. 

Concluding Remarks

Strategize your job search process and research the industry roles to get hired in these lesser known industry roles. You are more valuable in the industry than ever before. Hold yourself accountable at every step. Conduct extensive informational interviews to learn about the job responsibilities. Learn the expectations and skill set associated with each of the job descriptions. Streamline your resume to target the specific technical and transferable skill set. Include the apt buzzwords and apply for the lesser known industry positions.

Demonstrate the strength you harbor as a PhD!

To learn more about transitioning into industry, including instant access to our exclusive training videos, case studies, industry insider documents, transition plan, and private online network, get on the wait list for the Cheeky Scientist Association.

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Isaiah Hankel, PhD
Isaiah Hankel, PhD Chief Executive Officer at Cheeky Scientist

Isaiah Hankel holds a PhD in Anatomy and Cell Biology. An expert in the biotechnology industry, he specializes in helping other PhDs transition into cutting-edge industry career tracks.

Isaiah believes--from personal experience--that if you feel stuck somewhere in your life, it’s a clear sign that you need to make a change. Don’t sit still and wait for the world to tell you what to do. Start a new project. Build your own business. Take action. Experimentation is the best teacher.

Isaiah is an internationally recognized Fortune 500 consultant, CEO of Cheeky Scientist, and author of the straight-talk bestsellers Black Hole Focus and The Science of Intelligent Achievement.

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