Alternative careers for Ph.D scientists
August 22, 2013 2:56 PM   Subscribe

My husband is a biochemistry postdoc. He's having a difficult time in the biotech job market and he's considering looking for greener pastures in a different field. Wondering if you all have any advice.

Background information: He's a protein chemist, with a publication record that he describes as "decent". He's been looking for a job in industry for a very long time. He's also planning to do an academic job search this fall (small colleges and community colleges), but our understanding is that those jobs are even harder to get. (Or, the full-time ones, that is.)

Two people in his department recently got jobs at a medical software company in town that hires people without relevant experience. He's thinking he'll apply there, and this got us talking about what other jobs might be available for people with his training. I know a couple of people from grad school who've gone on to do other things, but after getting MBAs or JDs.

Do any of you have experience with leaving science for a different kind of work? If so I'd love to hear about it.

posted by gerstle to Work & Money (11 answers total) 14 users marked this as a favorite
Intellectual property/patent analyst, either for a law firm or industry. This can lead to getting a JD, or not, as he prefers. Alternately: patent examiner for the patent office. They always seem to be hiring.

Editor/publisher of science journals, for a company like Elsevier.
posted by deanc at 3:02 PM on August 22, 2013

I work for them on a contracting basis, but AJE hires PhDs to help non-native English speakers get their papers published through editing, formatting, and reviewing.
posted by hydropsyche at 3:07 PM on August 22, 2013

Biotech investment.
posted by nickrussell at 3:16 PM on August 22, 2013

This might not be great for your husband since he has so much invested in education, but I left a career in chemistry (biotech) for marketing and have been really successful. The analytical skills that scientists have are really valuable in that field, especially if he has any people skills at all. Pays much better too.

Alternatively, I have a friend who has a masters in biochem and is a project manager at a large biotech. He's basically a coordinator/liaison between all of the scientists (in different countries), the "money people", and regulatory agencies.
posted by tealcake at 3:18 PM on August 22, 2013

I'm a senior PhD student now working part time as a software dev in a role some might call 'data scientist'. My job is to make sense of big piles of data, using stats and machine learning in R. It's very 'sciencey' and uses a lot of the brain muscles I built as a researcher. This sort of skillset is in demand, especially in Silicon Valley (see Insight Data Science training/recruiting program for PhDs who want to work that field and that region).
posted by PercussivePaul at 3:19 PM on August 22, 2013 [4 favorites]

MeMail me if he's interested in talking to scientists who have made the jump into government relations/science policy, as I can put him in touch with a few folks here in DC.
posted by evoque at 3:37 PM on August 22, 2013 [1 favorite]

The folks I've known in this situation have gone on to bioinformatics, and science policy (govt) / regulatory compliance (industry). The one who is happiest started a winery.
posted by bonehead at 5:30 PM on August 22, 2013 [2 favorites]

Former biochemistry postdoc here, now working as a medical writer for a diagnostic testing company. I research and produce a huge range of written materials, ranging from super science-y stuff like treatment guides, scientific journal articles, and posters, to marketing materials, educational pieces for doctors and patients, case studies, physician newsletters... you name it. I also help make sure that material produced by other departments is scientifically accurate. Absolutely love my job and couldn't be happier about my decision to leave the bench.
posted by purplemonkie at 7:40 PM on August 22, 2013

Thank you very much, you guys. These are all good ideas and some he had never thought of. Sending some memails.
posted by gerstle at 5:59 AM on August 23, 2013


More than one friend who has a hard-science PhD worked on the Hill for Congress rep or Senator that was on the science committee (or one of the sub-committees). There's also the, hm, "trade groups" (not sure what you call American Chemical Society - ACS) that have a presence in DC and do political type stuff.
posted by k5.user at 9:48 AM on August 23, 2013

I have an alternative science career (hired at BS level, but most of my colleagues were hired as postdocs) -- feel free to send me a message. I also highly recommend Science Careers' my IDP as a resource for information about a wide range of non-academic careers that require science degree skills.
posted by RedMapleWhiteOak at 12:42 PM on August 25, 2013 [1 favorite]

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