Faculty or Industry? The Battle that PhD Students Shall Ever Face

Faculty or Industry, that’s the dilemma of most of Ph.D. students when finishing their degree. Although the main goal when pursuing a Ph.D. is to be a faculty, the idea of working in the industry is always there, especially, for students with no industry experience.

I believe that having experience outside the academia will enhance our performance as professors. Everything, in theory, looks so great but it is only when we apply the concepts in the real world that we really learn. We are asking for a change in higher education. We are asking for a more active learning environment where students should deal with real-world problems. However, if we lack of experience in the field, we cannot enrich the learning process of students. Does it make sense to you?

Even if we want to go the industry to get some experience, we do have the problem that most of the companies, at least in the construction industry, look for master students instead of PhDs. If we are lucky and we get a job, the salary would be the same as a person with a master degree. For sure, the life would be a little bit less stressful than if you work in the academy. Now, if you work in the industry for some years and then you want to go come back to the academy, your chances to get a position are really low. Why?  You have not been active in research.

I had no idea how much competition I will have to face in this academic environment. It is crazy! In the first years, an assistant professor would be racing against the clock to become a tenure. Even as a Ph.D. student I have seen how students want to be always in the first place. Is it worth?  They want to receive all the awards and scholarships and they feel disappointed if they do not get it. I do not compare myself to anyone. I am my own competition. I prefer to enjoy the process rather than being in a race during my entire life. I am doing my Ph.D. because

1) I want to be an expert in my research area,

2) I love teaching and service and,

3) I enjoy research.

Wouldn’t be possible to combine the industry and the academy?  Why the academy has to be a race, a competition? If I follow that path I would definitively not enjoy my job and I would lose my purpose.

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2 Responses to Faculty or Industry? The Battle that PhD Students Shall Ever Face

  1. Khang Pham says:

    I am about to wrap up my graduate program, and I have decided to pursue an industry career. I also really enjoy teaching and becoming an expert in an area. I have chosen a company that will allow me to do both because of their position in the market. If I do well, I might become a global expert and mentor the next generation of engineers in the future.

  2. dowlingm says:

    I agree that the process of getting tenured is incredibly stressful, and I fear what that might look like for me if I go into academia too. However, I do want to highlight that it is very possible to get research positions where they want PhDs and will pay well for it. Many of these positions enable you to publish your work too, meaning hat if you choose to switch into academia later, you have recent publications to demonstrate your continued capabilities as a researcher. Similarly, going into academia doesn’t prohibit you from working in industry. In fact, many industry researchers also teach at universities part time. Switching back and forth between academia and industry is more common and easier than you think!

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