Hosted By

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

Join Isaiah as he reveals the curses PhDs face by staying in academia

Here’s a quick rundown of this week’s episode…

  • First, Isaiah reveals what prevents PhDs from transitioning out of academia 
  • Next, he shares how tenure track positions are not an option anymore. 
  • Finally, Isaiah  reveals the 5 curses of staying in academia beyond your PhD

From This Week’s Show… 

What Stops PhDs From Transitioning From Academia

Staying in academia beyond your PhD is a curse. You need to get your PhD. It is an incredible way to learn how not only to master a field, but to push a field forward.

A PhD is a training position where you need to learn how to do research, how to do analysis, how to deal with uncertainty, how to face failure, how to think creatively, how to innovate. These are all incredibly valuable in the industry. Most of us stay in academia after getting a PhD because we don’t have a plan. We focus intensely on a publication or reading papers or all the other things that we can do that make our PI happy, or is rather easy to do. If you are the type that likes to learn, then it is easy for you to be stuck in the learning loop and never transition out of it.

It is easy for you to learn about one subject that you have mastered and have gone beyond to push forward. That makes you complacent. But you have to learn how to get a job, how to apply your knowledge in the real world, how to go beyond the ivory tower to get off the mountain peak you are currently on. 

Most PhDs have to start at the bottom of a mountain and struggle all the way up. That is why there is a pile of post-docs. The crisis in academia is this pile up of PhD who stay in academia working for free. 

Well, you graduate but don’t have a job lined up. This leads to the decision to  work for free. PhDs can’t live with the existential crisis that they got their PhD but are broke. So, instead of taking responsibility for that, they try to feel good about themselves by staying busy, working for their PI. They are convinced that this is for a noble cause. 

The Dying Tenure

Let’s face it, tenure professorships are gone. 

Lots of universities that didn’t have certain bylaws, have been cutting tenure professorships. Since the pandemic, there have been huge job cuts, funding losses, and pay cuts. So, in the US alone, the percentage has been matched in many other countries, 650,000 higher education jobs cut since the pandemic. These tenure positions are not coming back. They are not even taking PhDs into the academic system anymore. That is not good for you if you’re there because it means they are not going to support it. 

There’s no money to support it. The dying trend of tenure made it to a front-page article on Forbes, which is not a higher education or academic medium. It is a business journal and Forbes certified that tenure is dead. 

The article should get your attention because there is nowhere for you to go in academia anymore. So, if you stay there after your PhD, it is one of the biggest curses, because there is no use to your career. You are only advancing somebody else’s career. Rather if you stay, you actually become a worse candidate for industry. 

The longer you stay after getting your PhD, the less likely you are to get hired and the less you will be paid.

The 5 Curses Of Staying In Academia Beyond Your PhD

If you want to develop a treatment or a drug, you would need to translate your knowledge into a developmental process. Most translational work and nearly all development work is done in industry because they have the advanced robotics, the teams, the structure, and a strict project management methodology that academia lacks. 

When you get into industry, you will learn about the different types of project management from agile, to fall to six Sigma, etcetera. This is crucial because it is systemization, reproducibility. The ability to repeat something the exact same way over and over again is built into industry and only businesses that do that extremely well survive big enough to do anything big. 

No reproducibility in academia is of the most taxing curses. The numbers are staggering. Anywhere from 50% to 90% of experiments can not be reproduced in academia. And this is reported by scientists, engineers, PhDs. This was triggered in a lot of studies and surveys done in 2010 then in 2016, the poll was initiated by nature.

There are big things ahead for you, but you have to take the first step. As always, remember your value as a PhD and start thinking and acting like a successful industry professional.

** for the full podcast, check out the audio player above.

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