Work in the industry as a PhD or teach instead?
May 17, 2009 8:39 PM   Subscribe

What starting salary can a recent graduate PhD in Mass Communication expect to make in the industry focusing on research (i.e., not teaching at a university)?

Trying to decide whether to go into teaching at a university or go in the industry to do market research with my PhD. I know there is a relatively large price difference; but wondering how much the difference actually is.

I've been told teaching is anywhere from 40k-60k starting—untenured, but in the industry anywhere 100k and above. Can anyone enlighten me on this? Tough choices to make. Oh, and I have two more years to go before I graduate. I currently do online marketing/public relations research as a PhD student. Trying to begin plan ahead. Cheers...
posted by philrj to Work & Money (8 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
I'm not positive what kind of definitive answer you're looking to get here, as there are so many changes going on the general online marketplace and definitely market research specifically as well. I've worked in market research for a few years and it just keeps changing, pretty dynamically and quickly. In three years I expect that the field will look significantly different in many ways than today.

Honestly, I'd try to work towards something where I can play off my experience as either research oriented or industry oriented equally, i.e. do research, but on industry oriented topics, so you can either tell the big company you're interviewing for 'yep i totally know the industry backwards and forwards, look I've done tons of innovative research in the field' or the big uni you're interviewing for 'look at how serious of a researcher i am - I've published x papers in my field, i rock.'

As for salary, industry will almost always pay more than unis. However, not sure if you'd need a few years of actual industry experience to work up to that Director position where you make 100k+, probably would take a few years post Phd to do that, I'd imagine you'd definitely be an attractive candidate for many companies, though, having the Phd and all.

Good luck!
posted by jourman2 at 9:05 PM on May 17, 2009

Well, depening on where you're working, $30k to $40k would be roughtly entry level for someone in communications or market research. Depending on the organization, you might get something a bit higher. If you can present your graduate experience (research, writing, teaching, project management) in the right light, then $40k-$60k sounds reasonable.

Note: I've worked in communications & marketing for my entire career.
posted by acoutu at 9:31 PM on May 17, 2009

Quant or qual?
Applied or theoretical?
How many pubs (and single authored) in Comm journals?
How famous is your advisor?
Ranking of your program?

While the Comm job market isn't as bad as the humanities, I heard 400 people interviewed for a position at Northwestern. I'm at a top ranked Comm program and none of our 3 grads got jobs this year (academic or industry).
posted by k8t at 9:43 PM on May 17, 2009

PS, saw who your advisor is. If I were you, I'd try to go for an academic job and build a consulting business on the side. Sorry for the curt post above. Typing on phone.

PPS meetup at ICA?
posted by k8t at 9:51 PM on May 17, 2009

Your salary as a researcher in industry really depends on what you will be doing. A lot of survey design, report writing or outright research are done by co-op undergrads, or by folks with a masters degree, and these are entry-level positions, so you're looking at the 40K-50K range depending on the size of the company.

Generally speaking, anyone can work under direction as a researcher, which is why the wages are not too high considering the fact you have a PhD.

You generally earn more money for yourself by earning more money for your employer, and you do this by managing and then directing research programs and the associated staff, and you probably will not be entrusted to do this right out of school.

You might consider going into business yourself as a consultant on a project-by-project basis. For one thing, your hourly rate will be higher.
posted by KokuRyu at 10:21 PM on May 17, 2009

k8t is right about the job market. Less than half of my cohort in my mass comm program landed teaching jobs this year. The market for journalism/mass comm PhDs is terrible and is unlikely to get any better in the next year. There's definitely lots of money to be made in consulting, but it really depends on what your research focus is. Government work is also a possibility; several grads from my doctoral program have landed pretty good gigs with the federal government.
posted by Rangeboy at 10:40 PM on May 17, 2009

I've been told teaching is anywhere from 40k-60k starting

Seriously? I doubt there is a university in Canada that's not starting assistant profs at less than about 65k.

If this is about salary, reconsider giving a uni post a shot. You may be surprised, and this is the greatest job in the world. You'll never find tis mix of autonomy and security in the private sector and over time you'll be doing very well financially.
posted by ethnomethodologist at 9:38 AM on May 18, 2009

Thanks everyone for their responses. Wow. Very helpful thus far. I've always been industry-oriented, but after finishing my Master's degree in media studies (a research degree), I realized how much I loved doing research and continued on as a PhD student. I absolutely love teaching, but I have the same desire to do industry work.

The job situation is tough for everyone, both academics and those headed into the industry. It will be interesting...and a bit see what will happen over the next few years.

In response to k8t, I've done both qualitative and quantitative research, but my most recent projects have taken the quantitative route. My primary research area is online public relations, social media, user behavior, and media content.

I recently defended my Master's thesis, which was on Twitter, and my results were accepted to present at AEJMC in Boston this summer. I received a top paper award at AEJMC last year for a study I did on candidate and political blogs during the 2006 election. My full CV is online here (via VisualCV--a great resource, btw).

No journal publications...yet...but as a first year PhD I hope to have at least a couple before I finish.
posted by philrj at 2:22 PM on May 18, 2009

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