This editorial on the Nature News website discusses how scientists are often judged as ‘failures’ for deciding to leave the traditional research career path – and how this just isn’t so.
It’s becoming more and more common for people with science degrees and PhDs to decide to leave the research world behind to pursue different career paths, some outside the area of science altogether. This is hardly surprising, I know many of my peers who chose to do Chemistry degrees or PhDs without ever planning to have a career in the field, and even for people such as myself who want to pursue a career in the chemical sciences, can be put off by the sheer difficulty of landing that academic role.
While some news stories complain that the sheer volume of PhD graduates and Post Docs around are causing difficulties with getting into academia (and so students having to ‘drop out’ of research into other careers), this editorial suggests that the PhD should be celebrated as the path to a wide variety of livelihoods. Indeed, some organisations are actively advertising this fact as a positive when recruiting PhD students and Post Docs. Here at the University of Nottingham, we have career events with non-academic speakers, and are given the opportunity to take part in several training courses and modules outside of our area of research, so that we’re equipped with a wider range of skills for employment when we graduate. However, this isn’t the case at every institution, and more universities need to make it clear what options are available to graduates once they’ve finished their three or four years of research.
National Institutes of Health director Francis Collin phrases the prospect of a life outside of academia in a very succinct and positive way, simply stating that ‘they are not alternative careers, they are just careers.’ Very well put.
Following on from this, the website also have this great article describes the success of several ex-researchers who have led fulfilling lives in other sectors. It makes for a very interesting read!