Academia: Should I stay or should I go?
November 18, 2007 9:01 AM Subscribe
I will finish my PhD in a few months, and now is the season for postdoc applications. Thing is, I am not sure if I want to stay and academia. Should I apply for postdocs anyways and keep my options open? If not, any Ph.D.s out there (especially physicists) who have any advice on making the transition away academia?
posted by TheyCallItPeace to work & money (16 answers total) 14 users marked this as a favorite
I do research in a field (Physics) where it is absolutely required that I do a few years of postdoctoral research (3 or 4) before I can even apply for a faculty position. While I really enjoy collaborative research, the prospect of taking short term jobs (1 or 2 years) for a few years, moving around, only to then have very little choice of where I could possibly get a faculty position, is really not all that attractive -- the jobs are few, and I'd have to go wherever they are. There is also the simple fact that there are way too many applicants for faculty positions, and very few positions, and hell, I am old (32), and will be even older when looking for a faculty position (35? 37?). Sounds kinda late to settle down and START a life.
For various personal reasons, I feel that moving half-way around the world for a temporary job would be selfish and irresponsible, even if it sounds exciting to live abroad and meet new people.
However, it is now the season to apply for postdoctoral jobs. The jobs I am applying for now have a starting date of roughly Fall 2008. I feel inclined to apply anyways, just to keep my options open, because everything is months away anyways. Is this bad form? I'd only apply for jobs I'd be interested in taking if I decide to stay in academia, so I think it is fair that I learn more about my potential choices to make an informed decision.
I plan on looking at what my options are in industry, but there is no doubt that there will be the need for some adaptation, because my area of research has close to zero direct practical applications at this time. I have skills that are transferable (both soft and hard), so I am confident I will be able to find something. Although I hear that a Ph.D. is valuable when looking for a job even outside your field of research, I have been in academia for so long that I am not sure if that is true or not. I did work in industry for a couple of years before going to grad school, but that was unrelated to what I did my research in, and it has been 5/6 years.
So, my questions:
1) Is it bad to apply for postdoc jobs even though I am unsure if I will want to stay in academia?
2) Anyone out there with experience moving from academia to industry/real world after doing a PhD on something that has little or no direct practical applications (e.g. theoretical Physics)?
Even if you don't have direct advice, but care to share your personal experiences with similar issues, that'd be greatly appreciated.