High income options for life science PhDs
December 31, 2013 12:37 PM   Subscribe

I am graduating within the next year. I will have my PhD in Pharmacology - 4 first author publications, 1 patent. Several presentations at national conferences in my field. I also have an MS in Biochemistry and a BS in Math. 1 year of experience working as a research specialist in academia. Various extra curricular activities that demonstrate leadership. I want to make 100k a year or more. I want to do this reasonably quickly (within the next 4 years). I do not want to go back to any schooling of any type. What options are available for me?
posted by sickinthehead to Work & Money (11 answers total) 12 users marked this as a favorite
If you're still relatively young, affiliated with an elite institution, and have a stomach for Wall Street/corporate life, STEM grads used to be hoovered up by consulting firms like McKinsey, Bain, etc.--don't know if that's still the case post-2008. Your career services/counseling office at your university should be your first stop (most will serve graduate students as well as undergraduates).
posted by blue suede stockings at 12:41 PM on December 31, 2013 [1 favorite]

Working in a pharmaceutical company. Either in research or marketing or even Sales.

Pick some you like and start applying.

The US Government is another place to look:

HHS-Director, Office of Applied Research and and Safety Assessment. This one pays a shit ton and there's relocation available.

EPA-Computational/Medicinal Chemist.

HHS-Interdiciplinary Research Scientist

They sound pretty cool.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 12:44 PM on December 31, 2013

A pharmacology assistant professor at many research universities would pay what you want. If you're good and you're lucky you could build up the record you need to apply for one of those positions within four years.

All of those federal positions have fairly specific experience requirements and the poster hasn't given any indication that she meets them.
posted by grouse at 12:55 PM on December 31, 2013 [1 favorite]

Have you ruled out looking for a position as an assistant professor? I'm seconding grouse that, in the sciences and at many top colleges, you'd be close to or above that according to the Chronicle of Higher Ed.
posted by bluedaisy at 12:57 PM on December 31, 2013

They sound pretty cool.

And they're completely inappropriate for sickinthehead. Director of an office at the FDA? I don't think so. These are jobs that sickinthehead might aim for in 10-20 years, not four.

An entry assistant prof in the biosciences is probably only going to make $100k with full summer salary, and the job market is very, very competitive. You could possibly land a good job with ~4 years of postdoctoral work, but that work had better be pretty damn high profile. A lot of people spend much longer than four years on the postdoc hamster wheel.

You could look for an entry-level research position in biotech or pharma, but those might be tricky to get without a postdoc and they tend to pay under $100k to start. Not sure about after four years.

How's your network? Where have other people from your lab gone? Other people in your department? Talk to the students and postdocs who have left in the past 2, 3, 4 years. Talk to your advisor. Do you know anyone who has gone into finance? Other math majors from your undergrad maybe? A connection who can help you find a job in finance is probably the fastest way to make a high salary.
posted by mr_roboto at 1:15 PM on December 31, 2013 [4 favorites]

What blue suede stockings said.

Consulting shops like McKinsey, BCG or even Booze Allen Hamilton hire a number of PhD grads each each. What you do in those jobs may not have much to do with what you went to school for; but that's a different problem.
posted by justlooking at 1:43 PM on December 31, 2013

Anything directly in the life sciences is either a wasteland of low salaries or a major career risk given that the job might not be there tomorrow.

Since you have ruled out working for a law firm and becoming a patent lawyer, the consulting shops are your best bet. However, investment analyst in the biotech sector might give you the path you're looking for without any extra schooling. My college classmates who went this route got an MBA first, but my understanding is that an MBA is no longer the requirement it once was.
posted by deanc at 2:51 PM on December 31, 2013 [1 favorite]

I would go for a data scientist/"big data" position in a company. The kind of basic statistical skills that are trivial for a life sciences academic are in high demand right now in the business world.

Software engineering is another route. Software companies love nontraditional backgrounds, and lots of people have PhDs in marginally related subjects. But you have to know how to code.
posted by miyabo at 5:00 PM on December 31, 2013

Postdoc in pharma and network your way into a full time gig within four years.

Deanc is right that business is business and there's a lot of convulsion in the industry. But lord knows anything in academia is at least as risky w.r.t. funding and they sure pay much less. Consulting will pay more money than a FTE position but that's totally out on a high wire and will probably be tricky to get into.
posted by Sublimity at 5:01 PM on December 31, 2013

Medical Liaison at a pharmaceutical company. They serve as medical experts who gather academic and scientific information and contribute to clinical protocols before the drugs in development go to market. Similarly, Medical Writing is a great field to be in.
posted by floweredfish at 7:33 PM on December 31, 2013

There are lots of phDs where I work. I do not know their pay, but I would look at for profit Pharma companies. Research top pharma companies to work for and look at their postings. Compare the openings on glass door to get a idea for pay.They have lots of phds because they do high level research that require strict standards with the FDA.

I am not a pHd myself, so I do not know you get the job, but does your college have any career center? Find out what other grads when they left school and hopefully that can give you a good route.
posted by Jaelma24 at 10:04 AM on January 3, 2014

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