If you are nearing the end of your PhD program in biology — or even just starting to consider graduate school — it’s a good idea to think about what you will do after obtaining your PhD. Luckily there are a variety of different career paths open to biology PhD graduates, both inside and outside academia. Below are a few of the most interesting biology PhD jobs:
Becoming a tenured, full-time faculty member at a university and running an independent lab is the ultimate dream for most students who start down the path of a PhD. While this option provides a great deal a professional freedom, it is sadly becoming a more far-fetched career choice: Barely 1% of biology PhDs will eventually obtain a tenured faculty position.
That’s not to say you shouldn’t shoot for the stars. To land a tenure-track position, you must have an impressive record of peer-reviewed publications, excellent letters of recommendation from your postdoctoral mentors, and a great ability to communicate your science to a broad audience. Being a passionate educator will definitely help too — most junior faculty will have large teaching loads.
Medical writing and marketing
PhDs are trained to think critically, read research papers, and have a deep knowledge of a specific subject area, so the pharmaceutical industry employs thousands of life science PhDs to conduct research, write manuscripts for publication, attend academic conferences, interview physicians, among many other types of projects.
Medical writers — who specialize in writing clinically-focused materials that will be read by physicians — are employed by pharma and biotech companies, as well as by agencies that are dedicated to pharmaceutical communications and marketing.
You can click here to read more about what medical writing is all about here and to understand the wide variety of work that medical writers can do.
Biotech equity research
Investment banks focused on the biotech and pharmaceutical sectors need to understand which companies have the most promising research pipelines and therefore represent the smartest investments. “Equity research associates” are highly valued employees with graduate degrees in the sciences, who write research reports that help investors choose which biotech stocks are the best bet.
In the interest of transparency, the work hours of an equity researcher may be brutal but probably not inconsistent with what you’ve experienced as a PhD student or postdoc — and the pay is much better. Click here to find out more about the day-to-day work and salary expectations for a career in equity research.
Aside from the medical writing and marketing jobs described above, pharma and biotech companies employ thousands of scientists to do bench research in their laboratories. These scientists develop new chemical compounds or biologic therapies (e.g. antibodies) to be investigated in animal models and (hopefully) eventually clinical trials in humans.
Obviously the above is not an exhaustive list of career options for a Biology PhD graduate. As a top expert in your discipline, your potential paths are endless. If you enjoyed this article, please check out our previous post on how to get into a biology PhD program.