Jobs for Science PhDs Outside Academia

Careers in life sciences, physical sciences and healthcare require individuals to have a Ph.D. in science. The educational requirements, duties and salaries for these occupations are explored in greater detail in this article.

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Career Options for Science PhDs Outside Academia

A Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) is typically earned after a student has completed a bachelor's and master's degree. While it's common for academic professionals to be required to have a PhD, there are a number of other careers outside of academia that require a PhD in science. Many of these professions involve scientific research.

Job Title Median Salary (2016)* Job Outlook (2016-2026)*
Medical Scientists $80,530 13%
Physicists $115,870 14%
Astronomers $104,740 10%
Biochemists and Biophysicists $82,180 11%
Pharmacists $122,230 6%
Psychologists $75,230 14%

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

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Career Information for Science PhDs Outside Academia

Medical Scientists

The most common path to a career as a medical scientist is to earn a PhD in biology or a similar subject. Medical scientists primarily work in research; other employers include manufacturing companies and hospitals. They focus on health issues and perform research to determine what causes certain illnesses or how to effectively treat medical conditions. They may also be involved in producing and testing medicine to determine how effective it is.


Most opportunities for physicists require a PhD in physics. Those who work as physicists may work for the government, research companies or hospitals. Some specialize in performing research to develop medical treatments while others may be involved with developing technology. Physicists spend a lot of their time performing research related to matter or to try to expand our understanding of how the universe works.


Astronomers normally need to have a PhD in astronomy to prepare for their career. Many specialize in research and are responsible for developing theories, conducting experiments and reviewing their findings to draw conclusions. They may locate planets or discover information about different galaxies. Those who do not work for academic institutions may work for the government or be privately funded.

Biochemists and Biophysicists

Biochemists and biophysicists are required to have a PhD in a field such as biochemistry or a similar subject. Almost half of all biochemists and biophysicists work in research while others work in manufacturing. Understanding how living things grow and function is the key focus of their profession. They often work in laboratories where they perform experiments and then assess the results to draw conclusions that can be used for a wide range of purposes such as diagnosing illnesses or developing products like biofuels.


Pharmacists are responsible for ensuring patients get the right medications when they receive a prescription from a doctor. Pharmacists may make medications, package medications for patients and perform other health-related tasks, such as giving patients immunization shots. They are required to earn a doctoral degree in their field and most commonly work in pharmacies or hospitals. Pharmacists also have opportunities to work in sales or produce medications.


Although some psychologists may be able to start out with a master's degree, most psychologists must earn a PhD in psychology or a Doctor of Psychology (PsyD) to work in their field. Those who do not work in the academic field are typically employed by the government or work in hospitals and there are many opportunities for those with a PhD in this field to work in a non-academic environment. The focus of a psychologist's work is related to behavior and they may work with patients with brain disorders or emotional problems. Those who earn a PhD in psychology are more likely to be involved in research.

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