When is the right time for science grads to jump into industry?
Every summer around this time, a new cohort of PhD and MSc students graduate and are faced with the decision of what to do with their lives. With many options available it can often be difficult to choose which path to take. Master’s students have the option to continue on to doctoral studies, to apply for a lab technician/lab manager position or to pursue some other vocation such as medical school. For PhD grads the path will often involve post-doctoral work or a research associate position. As long as they choose to remain in the academic tract the path will be very well-defined and clearly laid out for them. The university environment acts like a cocoon protecting and shielding its inhabitants from outside pressures. There are plenty of mentors available who have graduated through the ranks and are willing to be consulted regarding their opinions and advice.
Graduate students may also choose to leave the academic tract and make the jump into industry. For many, the thought of landing a higher-paying job with benefits and stock options at a biotech or life science company is a lofty goal that they would do anything to achieve. However, a journey down the road to industry can be much bumpier and more complicated than taking the academic route. First and foremost, there are not as many experienced scientists who are willing and available to offer free advice to students who have recently graduated. Secondly, the job market itself is difficult to define, and knowing when to jump into the job pool is an important factor that can ultimately decide one’s success in gaining industrial employment.
The Cross-Border Biotech Blog recently reviewed Ernst & Young‘s Beyond Borders global biotech report and seemed to conclude that Canadian R&D spending is down by 44% and that the number of new biotech companies that went public in 2009 was also down from the previous year. All in all, this does not paint a pretty picture for recent grads looking for a position in the biotech sector and might lead more students to choose the academic route over industry.
Over the next few weeks we will interview people from academia and industry including professors, deans, CEOs, Lab managers and HR recruiters to hear their opinion on questions that are often on the minds of many graduate students. What can I do to prepare myself for making the jump to industry? When is the best time to make the transition? Are there any programs available (for example co-op programs) that will increase my chances of success?
If YOU have already made the transition and have advice for our dear students, please share! If you are a graduate student and have questions that you’d like answered send them to us and we will include them in our interviews. Don’t be shy! This might be the perfect opportunity for you to get the answers you are looking for.
Be sure to stay tuned to the Canadian Biotechnologist to hear what the experts have to say and don’t forget to check back often!