Alternative Careers for PhD Scientists

PhD scientists looking to do something new can find different options in education, the humanities and more. Find out about a few of these options, their job duties, median salaries and expected job growth rates.

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Although it depends on one's personal interests, scientific discipline and educational background, in general there are several alternative careers that could utilize the research, writing and analysis skills of a PhD scientist. These career alternatives range across different fields and vary greatly in their specific job duties. Here we discuss a handful of the alternative career options for PhD scientists.

Alternate Career Options for PhD Scientists

Job Title Median Salary (2016)* Job Growth (2016-2026)*
Natural Sciences Managers $119,850 10%
Postsecondary Teachers $75,430 15%
Writers and Authors $61,240 8%
Survey Researchers $54,470 2%
Statisticians $80,500 34%

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

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Career Information for Alternative Jobs for PhD Scientists

Natural Sciences Managers

PhD scientists with a background in the natural sciences may enjoy moving into a leadership and managerial position as a natural sciences manager, a career that typically requires a bachelor's, master's or PhD and work experience in science. These managers may still perform some of their job duties in the laboratory as they train and assist teams of scientists, but their primary duty is to coordinate the work of these scientists as they conduct experiments and projects for clients. This requires natural sciences managers to monitor the project's budget, keep the project within the required timeline and check the work of different scientists for accuracy. They also communicate with clients to keep them updated on any progress and work to ensure that all laboratory and safety procedures are followed.

Postsecondary Teachers

Although a scientists' discipline will likely determine what classes he or she teaches, a PhD is typically required to work as a postsecondary teacher. Postsecondary teachers usually teach multiple courses in their area of expertise, which requires them to develop their own curriculum for each course and create exams that accurately test students' knowledge of the material. Although it depends on the particular institution, postsecondary teachers are often expected to help advise undergraduate students and/or supervise graduate students throughout their studies. These educators usually conduct their own independent research in their field for the institution and may serve on different committees for their department or the school.

Writers and Authors

Although most PhD scientists are overqualified as most writers and authors only need a bachelor's degree, many of these professionals may enjoy a career as a writer or author. PhD scientists may make a new career out of writing blogs, articles for magazines or websites, books and other media about subjects in their particular discipline or other areas of personal interest. Writers and authors usually need to conduct some research for their work to add detail. They typically submit multiple drafts of their work to an editor to proofread and help prepare the piece for publication.

Survey Researchers

Survey researchers usually need a master's or doctorate degree, but some entry-level positions may only require a bachelor's degree. PhD scientists can easily apply their research and analysis skills to designing surveys aimed at investigating a wide range of topics and then analyzing the collected data. To create these surveys, survey researchers must research the particular subject of the survey, test questions to ensure they are understandable and figure out how to account for any sampling issues. Once data is collected, they may analyze it with statistical software and present their findings in reports.


Statisticians need at least a master's degree in a quantitative field, and most PhD scientists have the necessary knowledge of statistics and research to work these positions. Statisticians specialize in analyzing data to try and solve a particular problem in various fields, such as business or healthcare. They analyze data collected from experiments, surveys and other sources using statistical software, techniques and models. Their findings are presented in technical reports and often have implications for their clients' decision-making processes.

PhD scientists have advanced thinking, writing, research and analysis skills that can easily be applied to other research, writing and teaching positions. Some of these positions may be focused in their particular discipline, while others may provide a new and fresh perspective.

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