Jobs for Science PhDs Outside of Academia

Mar 28, 2018

Graduates with a science PhD have plenty of career options outside of academia across different fields, such as research and management. Learn more about some of these positions, their median salaries and expected job growth rates.

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Depending on their particular science background and interests, those holding science PhDs can find several careers outside of academia. These careers typically draw upon the research, analysis and writing skills that most PhDs possess. Explore a handful of the available jobs for science PhDs below.

Career Options for Science PhDs Outside of Academia

Job Title Median Salary (2016)* Job Growth (2016-2026)*
Biochemists and Biophysicists $82,180 11%
Physicists and Astronomers $114,870 14%
Chemists and Materials Scientists $75,420 7%
Market Research Analysts $62,560 23%
Technical Writers $69,850 11%
Natural Sciences Managers $119,850 10%
Operations Research Analysts $79,200 27%
Medical Scientists $80,530 13%

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS)

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Career Information for non-Academic Science Jobs with a PhD

Biochemists and Biophysicists

Biochemists and biophysicists generally need a PhD, usually in biochemistry, physics, chemistry or a related field, to work in research and development. These professionals conduct complex research projects and experiments to explore the chemistry and physical characteristics of biological processes. Their work often has implications for biotechnology, medicine and other health-related areas. Biochemists and biophysicists typically work in a laboratory setting, where they work with DNA, proteins and other molecules, but they also write technical reports and papers explaining their research findings. According to the BLS, nearly half of all biochemists and biophysicists worked in non-academic research and development in 2016, with a significant portion also working in the pharmaceutical industry.

Physicists and Astronomers

Some physicists and astronomers work in research as opposed to academia, and a significant number were employed by the federal government in 2016, per the BLS. They must have a PhD in physics, astronomy or a related field. These scientists examine how different matter and energy interact through complex research experiments. They often use high-tech laboratory equipment, such as telescopes and lasers, as well as computer software to analyze their data. Physicists and astronomers usually need to apply for some grants or other forms of funding and typically present their findings in scientific papers.

Chemists and Materials Scientists

Many research positions for chemists and materials scientists require a PhD, usually in chemistry, materials science or a related field. Chemists and materials scientists design and conduct research projects to create new products and test old ones. These scientists study products at the molecular levels to ensure safety and figure out any necessary improvements. They generally work in a lab setting with various chemicals and present their findings in research papers. The BLS reported that some of the largest employers of these scientists in 2016 were the chemical manufacturing and research and development industries.

Market Research Analysts

Although market research analysts usually only need a bachelor's or master's degree, those with a PhD in science have the necessary research, analytical and math skills needed for these positions. PhD-holders may even be better equipped to research technical markets and understand what consumers are buying and the general market conditions for a particular product or service. Market research analysts watch and predict sales trends using consumer data collected through surveys and other methods. They typically analyze data using statistical software and present their findings in reports.

Technical Writers

Technical writers need at least a bachelor's degree, but many PhD-holders find careers as technical writers, and their writing skills and scientific background qualify them to write in various technical fields, including biology, computer science and medicine. These writers are responsible for making complex, technical information easier to understand as they write journal articles, instruction manuals and other forms of media. They must understand the needs of their readers and then organize, write and edit the necessary information. Technical writers may also include diagrams, photographs and other visuals to help explain the topic and may update their work based on feedback from readers.

Natural Sciences Managers

A position as a natural sciences manager may be a natural choice for those with a science PhD, since these professionals may hold a bachelor's, master's or doctoral degree in a scientific field and usually need work experience as a scientist. These managers oversee the work of various scientists as they work cooperatively on research projects. This requires natural sciences managers to hire, assist and evaluate scientists as needed and ensure that all lab and safety rules are followed. Natural sciences managers also oversee the budget of projects, communicate with the client and maintain laboratory equipment and inventories.

Operations Research Analysts

Those with a science PhD have the advanced research and analysis skills needed to work as operations research analysts. Although these analysts only need a bachelor's or master's degree, those with a science PhD can use their background in statistics, modeling and research design to gather the information needed to help solve complex business problems. Operations research analysts work with management to help them make better-informed decisions based on their research findings. These analysts typically present their findings in reports with their recommendations.

Medical Scientists

A position as a medical scientist may be a good fit for those with a PhD in biology or another life science, since these professionals need advanced research skills and biological knowledge to help improve human health. Medical scientists study human diseases by examining samples and data with the hopes of figuring out ways to prevent and/or treat these medical issues. Some medical scientists may develop new medical devices, help standardize drug dosages or help create health programs with other healthcare professionals to serve the public.

Those with a PhD in science can work several different kinds of positions as analysts, managers, researchers and writers outside of academia. These positions generally pay upwards of $60,000 (per the BLS) and utilize the advanced skills and training of PhDs-holders.

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