What do PhDs do after their PhD?

The results of the first part of a study on careers in France after a doctorate, conducted by ADOC TM

By Audrey Risser | Community Manager

While you’re focusing on your PhD, you may sometimes wonder what’s next, where your 3-or-more-year experience in the lab is going to lead you. Some of you may want to continue with an academic career, others may want to find a job in industry, create their own business, do something completely different from research, or just wait and see what happens after their thesis. In December, Adoc Talent Management released the first results of a study aimed at understanding the career mechanisms of PhDs in France, specifically those who chose to work in industry after their thesis.

Based on a sample of ten PhDs, women and men with a variety of profiles, who defended their thesis between 3 and over 20 years ago, this study shows the influences that lead individuals to a doctorate, why they later choose not to work in academia and the large range of career options available in industry.

Why do a doctorate?

Although some subjects started a doctorate with the objective of becoming academic researchers, other motivations emerge from this study, like the taste for doing research or the desire to gain key skills for expert positions in companies.

What prospects for PhDs in industry?

R&D seems to be an obvious option in industry, but it’s far from being the only prospect: positions in R&D support, teaching, consultancy, IT, management, and even marketing and communication can be considered as well. According to the CAREER report that was released in 2012, about 4% of those working in industry after a doctorate also create their own company after the PhD, a post-doc or another professional experience.

Why choose to work in industry after a PhD?

Not working in academia after a PhD may seem like a surprising choice, but it’s increasingly common. The lack of opportunities in research or teaching is one motivation to work in industry, while some scientists realize the world of research differs from what they expected before their PhD. In every case, the PhD acts as a catalyst for the ultimate choice of career, either by confirming the scientists’ will to continue in industry, helping them discover career opportunities they weren’t considering before or revealing that research is not the best fit for them.

What happens when researchers work in private companies?

All the participants in the study, including those who initially wanted to be academic researchers, stated that they were very satisfied with their career in industry. They are building their career, year after year, according to their opportunities, but also to what they desire, like new professional projects or new work environments. The study reveals that those who wanted to work in industry from the start and were thus more prepared for a non-academic life, felt satisfied about their professional life earlier.

The spirit of research remains

Working in industry doesn’t mean forgetting everything about your thesis years and starting from scratch. All the PhDs interviewed declared that they gained something valuable from the experience, whatever their current work: they all kept a link with research and/or innovation, be it in the way they view their job, their professional environment or their work methods.

For more details about this study, you can access the full results (in French) at the link below:


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