This is a topic that I am particularly passionate about being a PhD candidate, like many others, who went into the industry. I am part of what is called a ‘Transformed PhD’ at my university which intends to provide PhD candidates with a broad skill set to be able to go into a range of industries. Unfortunately, I was the guinea pig year so a lot of the initiatives were not up and running for me, but it is great to see PhD students coming through now with the opportunity to get paid internships during their PhDs and other career building programs.
In my humble opinion this is critical. It is also critical for universities to advocate for PhD candidates ability in the workforce. Currently, in my case at least, a PhD is not considered experience. “It is a degree not a job”. I beg to differ, during my PhD I obtained 4 years research experience, experience leading projects, writing ethics reports, running complex statistics, developing surveys, writing reports, presenting reports…… I naively thought that this would put me in a good position for a research role. If you have read other posts of mine you may know that I landed a graduate position at a market and social research company, and while I really enjoy the company, taking a graduate position (with the graduate salary to go with it) was a hard pill to swallow. At the start I was so excited just to land a job and get to sink my teeth into a range of research projects that I didn’t really consider how long term taking a graduate position, as a PhD graduate, would make me feel.
I am really passionate about seeing the gap between PhD and industry close. I am not expecting PhD students to be able to go into industry at the top. But it is disheartening to see many PhD students going in at the very bottom… the job I am currently working graduates from a three year undergraduate can get. This may seem disheartening but I believe that with some advocacy and more career building elements made compulsory for PhD candidates this will shift.