Here Are The Best Government Careers For PhDs

Think academia and industry are your only two options for a career? Think again.

For PhDs, government careers can represent exciting and unusual ways to apply your expertise in meaningful ways.

Imagine helping craft the policy that leads to cleaner air or lower emission vehicles. 

Or, imagine identifying a troubling trend before it comes to a head—and helping agencies take the steps they need to mitigate a crisis.

Government jobs are as specialized and as varied as PhD programs. They need smart and intelligent people who are trained to work with dedication and discipline. None better than PhDs to fill these crucial roles.

With that in mind, here are the best government careers for PhDs … no matter your specialty. 

What To Know About Government Careers For PhDs

Landing a government job means steady employment, predictable promotions, and plenty of benefits that improve the quality of life all around.

Not to mention that paycheck. 

That all said, securing a government career isn’t like finding a job in industry or academia. 

Be aware that:

  • The screening process will be long. Do you have months to spend getting this job? If so, it’s worth it. If not, you may need to start the process while you look for something in the meantime.
  • Citizens are usually given preference over non-citizens. In some cases, like certain jobs within the U.S. federal government, you must be a citizen or national.
  • It’s not always as competitive as you think. At one point, as many as 50% of the vacancies posted to USAJOBs went unfilled. 
  • You might want to consider relocating. Government jobs may lie scattered throughout the country. If you’re willing to relocate, it opens up a lot more doors.
  • Governments love a variety of perspectives. Don’t be afraid to apply for an interesting position because it seems “too out there.” You’ve got soft skills that other candidates won’t necessarily have, which will make you especially valuable.

Three Areas To Consider A Government Career As A PhD

Government positions are a strong choice for people who are service- or community-minded, who wouldn’t find fulfillment in the private sector. In government, your work will have real-world impacts in some very direct ways.

The best part? It doesn’t matter if you’re a STEM PhD or not. A PhD in humanities can serve just as effectively depending on what they’re doing.

Here are three routes to snag a government career as a PhD, no matter how specialized your knowledge base may be.

1. Policy Advisory & Analysis

Politicians need to make informed decisions, but they don’t always have the expertise or knowledge they need to do so. Who do they turn to in that case?

Their Policy Advisors.

These are specialists who bridge the world between an academic discipline and public policy. In the government, they often take the form of:

  • Science Policy Advisors. If you’re any sort of STEM PhD, look into science policy. Your leaders will call upon you when making decisions affecting things like technology, infrastructure, climate change, healthcare, and more.
  • Public or government Policy Advisors. Social Science PhDs often fill these ranks. Here, your specialized knowledge in things like culture, language, or history can help you develop effective policy that creates social change.
  • Policy Analysts. In this role, you may work on policy analysis, research trends, or spend time looking into the impacts of political actions. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, such professionals usually have a PhD in political science, public administration, or another closely related field.

2. Regulatory Affairs

This involves the creation of regulations to safeguard consumer or public health and safety. Professionals in regulatory affairs interface with the government and various industries to negotiate regulations, promote consumer safety, and protect the economic interests of businesses in that industry.

In a nutshell, it’ll be your job to make sure that unsafe products in your industry don’t make it to market. 

The range of products and industries that regulatory affairs may cover is huge. Take Airama Albisa, PhD, who became a Regulatory Affairs Specialist in the pharmaceutical industry. Or Dignesh Shah, PhD, who performs a similar role for a healthcare technology firm.

Regulatory affairs are neat because a wide range of PhDs is applicable in the field. The role often focuses more on certain skills that you need to succeed. 

If that sounds interesting, check out the Regulatory Affairs Council. In this Advanced Program, we’ll help you leverage your existing skills throughout the hiring process. 

3. Labs & Research

Universities and private industry aren’t the only places you’ll come across Research Scientists. Governments love them, too.

Like with policy advisory and regulatory affairs, the variety of ways to apply your PhD might surprise you. 

For example, did you know that governments are the largest employers of Molecular Biologists? They end up in federal roles in fields like:

  • Forensic science
  • Biotechnology
  • Disease research
  • Agricultural research

Of course, even if you’re not in a life science field, you can still land a sweet government research job. Engineering, political science, and mathematics are all good fits for many government agencies who need researchers for their specialties.

And if you’re in a “soft science” like humanities or social sciences? Don’t fear. Even the U.S. Department of Defense needs people who excel at researching people, behavior, societies—and everything else related to human life.

Plus, a Research Scientist for the government just screams “I know classified things.” Doesn’t it? 

PhDs Work Everywhere: A Government Career Lies Within Reach

We say it around here a lot: academia isn’t your only option.

In fact, it’s an option you want to avoid. There are so many better career paths out there. 

For PhDs, government careers may mean a challenging, fulfilling position that has direct impacts on the world.

We’ve just covered three ways for PhDs to land government jobs—plus the predictability, stability, and paycheck that comes with it. Whether you’re a STEM PhD or an expert in the social sciences, there’s a government career out there for you.

As the world’s largest job search training platform for PhDs, we know all about the awesome (and even unexpected) options you have. 

You’re now one step closer to becoming that confident, successful industry professional we know you are.

If you’re ready to start your transition into industry, you can apply to book a free Transition Call with our founder Isaiah Hankel, PhD or one of our Transition Specialists. Apply to book a Transition Call here.

Book a Transition Call
Get Free Job Search Content Weekly
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.

Similar Articles

What Is A 30-60-90 Day Plan And How To Amaze Interviewers By Presenting One

What Is A 30-60-90 Day Plan And How To Amaze Interviewers By Presenting One

By: Isaiah Hankel, PhD

I hear stories about 30-60-90 day plans from PhDs interviewing for industry positions everyday. These stories have all sorts of outcomes. PhDs moving to the next stage of the interview process. Or getting the job of their dreams. Or being cut in the first interview rounds. There is one outcome, however, that always bothers me, and that is when a PhD makes it all the way to the final video interview or the site visit and doesn’t get a job offer. It’s devastating when a PhD goes through all the effort to prepare for each interview round just to get…

Best Of Transition: Ph.D. Jobs & Job Search Strategies Jan 15, 2022

Best Of Transition: Ph.D. Jobs & Job Search Strategies Jan 15, 2022

By: Isaiah Hankel, PhD

Every week, we at Cheeky Scientist scour the Internet for the best articles on topics that help in the search for the Best of Transition: PhD Job Search in the industry. Our two consultants independently search for the most informative articles in the categories of networking, CVs/resumes, interviews, transferable skills, academic blues, industry positions, and business acumen. Our consultants vote on a top article for each category and a top overall article for the week – if it’s a recent article that can help readers find and acquire PhD jobs, then we want to include it in this weekly digest.…

The 3 Components Of A Professional Job Search Profile

The 3 Components Of A Professional Job Search Profile

By: Isaiah Hankel, PhD

The components of your professional job search profile are important. If you want to transition into industry, you need to talk the language of industry and show that to potential referrals and employers. You probably already heard me say this, but do you know what it actually means? It means you need to know how you are portraying yourself from the very first moment you start planning your transition. Even before you start applying for jobs. If you are looking to transition into industry, but are applying to positions using an academic CV instead of an industry resume, you are…

Best Of Transition: Ph.D. Jobs & Job Search Strategies, Jan 8th, 2022

Best Of Transition: Ph.D. Jobs & Job Search Strategies, Jan 8th, 2022

By: Isaiah Hankel, PhD

Every week, we at Cheeky Scientist scour the Internet for the best articles on topics that help in the search for the Best of Transition: PhD Job Search in the industry. Our two consultants independently search for the most informative articles in the categories of networking, CVs/resumes, interviews, transferable skills, academic blues, industry positions, and business acumen. Our consultants vote on a top article for each category and a top overall article for the week – if it’s a recent article that can help readers find and acquire PhD jobs, then we want to include it in this weekly digest.…

How Any PhD Can Get Hired In Industry (6 Steps)

How Any PhD Can Get Hired In Industry (6 Steps)

By: Isaiah Hankel, PhD

Do you have a job search strategy to be hired in industry? An actual job search strategy that guides the actions you will take to get hired in industry? Or do you tend to start the week without a structured plan when it comes to your transition? You wake up on Tuesday and submit a few resumes, do nothing Wednesday and Thursday, reach out to a few contacts on Friday, coast on the weekend, and search for online job postings on Monday. And expect to be hired in industry. Does this sequence sound absurd? Are you thinking that nobody searches for…

Best Of Transition: Ph.D. Jobs & Job Search Strategies, Jan 1st, 2022

Best Of Transition: Ph.D. Jobs & Job Search Strategies, Jan 1st, 2022

By: Isaiah Hankel, PhD

Every week, we at Cheeky Scientist scour the Internet for the best articles on topics that help in the search for the Best of Transition: PhD Job Search in the industry. Our two consultants independently search for the most informative articles in the categories of networking, CVs/resumes, interviews, transferable skills, academic blues, industry positions, and business acumen. Our consultants vote on a top article for each category and a top overall article for the week – if it’s a recent article that can help readers find and acquire PhD jobs, then we want to include it in this weekly digest.…

How To Shorten The Hiring Funnel And Get Hired Faster

How To Shorten The Hiring Funnel And Get Hired Faster

By: Isaiah Hankel, PhD

Finding a PhD-level industry job through the hiring funnel is hard.  After all, you are aiming for one of the 0.5% top available positions. Employers don’t just hand those positions out. At the same time, it’s likely that you are not getting hired because you are incorrectly aligning your efforts with what the hiring process looks like from the employer’s perspective. Do you have a strategy for getting hired or are you just winging it? If you are thinking that you will only have to apply to a couple of industry positions before getting an offer or that hiring managers…

Best Of Transition: Ph.D. Jobs & Job Search Strategies, December 25th, 2021

Best Of Transition: Ph.D. Jobs & Job Search Strategies, December 25th, 2021

By: Isaiah Hankel, PhD

Every week, we at Cheeky Scientist scour the Internet for the best articles on topics that help in the search for the Best of Transition: PhD Job Search in the industry. Our two consultants independently search for the most informative articles in the categories of networking, CVs/resumes, interviews, transferable skills, academic blues, industry positions, and business acumen. Our consultants vote on a top article for each category and a top overall article for the week – if it’s a recent article that can help readers find and acquire PhD jobs, then we want to include it in this weekly digest.…

5 Job Search Time Wasters That PhDs Should Stop Doing Immediately

5 Job Search Time Wasters That PhDs Should Stop Doing Immediately

By: Isaiah Hankel, PhD

Feeling discouraged with your job search strategy? Have you uploaded hundreds of resumes without hearing back from employers? Are you starting to think you are not cut out for an industry position? This happens to many PhDs at some point in their transition journey.  They don’t know how to execute a correct job search strategy. So they waste lots of time doing things that don’t yield any result. Then get discouraged. An industry job search is maddening. As PhDs we are never trained rigorously on how to do it in academia. Most PhDs are never trained on how to execute…

Top Industry Career eBooks

Complete LinkedIn Guide For PhDs

Complete LinkedIn Guide For PhDs

Isaiah Hankel

The LinkedIn tips & strategies within have helped PhDs from every background get hired into top industry careers.

20 Most Popular Industry Career Tracks For PhDs

20 Most Popular Industry Career Tracks For PhDs

Isaiah Hankel, PhD & Arunodoy Sur, PhD

Learn about the top 20 industry careers for PhDs (regardless of your academic background). In this eBook, you will gain insight into the most popular, highest-paying jobs for PhDs – all of which will allow you to do meaningful work AND get paid well for it.

Industry Resume Guide for PhDs

Industry Resume Guide for PhDs

Isaiah Hankel, PhD

Learn how to craft the perfect industry resume to attract employers. In this eBook for PhDs, you will get access to proven resume templates, learn how to structure your bullet points, and discover which keywords industry employers want to see most on PhD resumes.