Understanding Top PhD Jobs In Altac Fields Is Not Easy, But This Will Help
A repeated misconception that plagues PhDs when faced with career choices is that their doctorate could be a liability in the job market.
Career counselors are still telling doctoral students that a PhD will make companies view them as overqualified or too independent, instead of guiding them to the top PhD jobs available.
These advisors will tell you that cultivating strong professional relationships, attending networking events, and relying on your mentors are the best options to find a rewarding career post-graduation.
However, years spent doing research prepare you for almost any strategic role in modern industry. Another misconception that may keep you from looking for a career outside of the tenure-track is that most PhDs end up as professors.
The kicker is, they don’t.
In this blog, we’ll discuss some of the top PhD jobs you should consider if you want a fulfilling career and want to make some decent money in the process.
Top PhD Jobs To Look For Outside Of Academia
As far back as 2013, it became clear that PhD jobs inside academia are hard to find. Back then, only 12% of PhDs ended up in academic positions in the U.S. This means that in a steady state, only 12.8% of PhDs can rise to academic positions.
While this may seem like your career prospects are dwindling, the opposite is actually true. More PhDs are finding rewarding careers in many industries and business disciplines, driving innovation across the technology, research, and educational sectors. From all graduates, almost all PhDs find gainful employment. A PhD will also drastically increase your lifetime earnings by about $1.3 million compared to a bachelor’s degree.
To help you choose, we’ve grouped top PhD jobs into three categories.
1. Highest Paying PhD Jobs
While research may be your passion, being paid well for doing it is still a pragmatic pursuit. In academic settings, you may chase recognition instead of remuneration. But for any PhD who wants to get into industry, the world is your oyster. Career opportunities with high earning potential exist outside of academia and come with similar rewards.
Some best-earning PhD jobs include:
- Psychology – You could earn a salary of about $132k per year with job growth of 14%
- Immunology – A highly specialized field that is now crucial to public health and provides a $134k income per annum
- Economics – At the higher end of the earning potential, applying your PhD in economics will earn you about $185k per year
- Computer science – Still one of the biggest growing sectors, a career in the computer sciences can lead to a $189k per annum salary
These fields are broad enough to find a rewarding position at startups, Fortune 500 companies, and global leaders in technology and pharmacology. When considering your future career, it’s worth remembering that industry now depends on individual thinkers who have a passion for uncovering minute details in almost every business sector.
2. Rewarding PhD Jobs In Altac Fields
If you want to see real ROI from the years you spent earning your PhD, you may want to consider an opportunity in an altac (alternative academic) career. These aren’t just rewarding career choices—more PhDs are now finding gainful employment by joining research teams in the commercial sector. Remember that your PhD is not the end—it could be the beginning of a long and fruitful career in industry.
Obviously, different types of personalities work toward a PhD. From industrialists to intellectuals, there’s likely an altac career choice available to you.
Consider job positions from institutions like:
- Think tanks that dabble in fields similar to your field of research
- Altruistic organizations like the United Nations or World Health Organization
- Joining commercial research projects or government programs
Compared to tenure-track jobs in academia that can take between 3 and 5 years to land, choosing the altac option is a viable alternative. You shouldn’t view this as a backup either. Instead, once you make the choice, start seeking out the best opportunities available immediately. Before deciding on what altac job you want, check out this list of the most popular industry careers for when you start your job hunt.
3. Alternative PhD Jobs
Similar to altac jobs, alternative PhD jobs fall outside of the academic field. Mostly, alternative jobs may come from emerging fields and technology innovators who are always looking for a new, improved way of doing things. The scope of your work could range anywhere from molecular biology to environmental sciences, or product remediation.
Some fields you should consider include:
- Industrial scientist – Requires intense scientific exploration, and the company will expect you to provide real and immediate results.
- Product and technical market specialist – Product ownership is a way companies consolidate everything relating to a product under one person. You’ll be responsible for all elements including marketing analysis, technical vision, and strategic innovation.
- Technical writer or instructional designer – One thing your PhD gives you is the ability to communicate a deep technical understanding of sciences in the written form. Technical writers often work independently and are responsible for validating information before it goes to a user or public consumer.
- Medical science liaison – For those who have a background in clinical data sciences, consider becoming a medical science liaison that guides research efforts by understanding the issues and using a wealth of knowledge to analyze problems.
- Consultant – Consulting is a way for organizations to bring in industry expertise for any kind of business problem. With your PhD, you can join a management consulting firm, giving you multiple projects to choose from around the world.
This list isn’t extensive, and you’ll want to consider other elements like negotiating your starting salary for a PhD career in industry. To find the ideal position, start looking for opportunities early and match your current skills to a career that will be challenging, worthwhile, and financially rewarding.
Choosing A Top PhD Career With Cheeky Scientist
At Cheeky Scientist, we help PhDs find rewarding careers within industry. With guides, training programs, and other resources, Cheeky Scientist is here to help you navigate some of the biggest decisions of your life. Regardless of what career you’re currently looking at, you should get the lay of the land before you make the final decision.
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.
ABOUT ISAIAH HANKEL, PHD
CEO, CHEEKY SCIENTIST & SUCCESS MENTOR TO PHDS
Dr. Isaiah Hankel is the Founder and CEO of Cheeky Scientist. His articles, podcasts and trainings are consumed annually by 3 million PhDs in 152 different countries. He has helped PhDs transition into top companies like Amazon, Google, Apple, Intel, Dow Chemical, BASF, Merck, Genentech, Home Depot, Nestle, Hilton, SpaceX, Tesla, Syngenta, the CDC, UN and Ford Foundation.
Dr. Hankel has published two bestselling books with Wiley and his methods for getting PhDs hired have been featured in the Harvard Business Review, Nature, Forbes, The Guardian, Fast Company, Entrepreneur Magazine and Success Magazine.More Written by Isaiah Hankel, PhD