Is Another Degree Necessary After Your PhD?

Posted in Career Advice

There was an interesting article in Science Careers Magazine this week entitled “Should you consider another degree after your PhD.” The article traces the journey of several people who earned PhD degrees in science-related fields who transitioned into new careers including law, regulatory affairs, business development and science writing.

The gist of the article is that if you can afford the costs of earning another degree, it may be worth it for persons with PhD degrees who want to get “out of the lab.” However, based on my own experiences and those of the persons mentioned in the article, most graduate students and postdocs lack the financial resources to enroll in professional degree or certificate programs after completing their PhD programs. Consequently, most of the people showcased in the article were able to leverage unpaid internships and volunteer work into new jobs that paid for additional training or professional degree programs.

I have long posited that obtaining another degree after a PhD degree may not be in a  best interest of PhD degree holders for a variety of reasons. First, as mentioned above, the financial obligations of a degree or certificate program may be too onerous  or unrealistic for graduate students who worked for minimum wage for many years to obtain their PhD degrees; the funds simply are not available. Second, by the time a PhD degree is award and postdoctoral training is completed, most science PhD degree holders are in their mid 30s to early 40s and ,in many cases have families,which may not be conducive to going back to school full time. Also, who wants to be a student for most of their adult lives? Finally, the mere exhaustion and stress associated with spending close to 10 years in a laboratory may discourage even most ambitious individuals from pursuing another degree or certificate. Put simply, there may not be “enough gas left in the tank” to obtain another degree in the hopes of possibly a changing a career trajectory.

Based on my experience as an instructor in a program offered to PhD students and postdocs who had already decided that a research career was not for them, internships, volunteer work and an unrelenting pursuit of an alternate career is probably the best way to navigate a career change. What I observed about all of the students in this program (over 70% of them obtained non-research jobs after completing their PhD degrees with no postdoctoral training) was that they were highly motivated and did whatever was necessary to network and leverage the resources offered to them by the program (which included mixers, invitations to professional meetings, and guest speakers outside of the research world including pharmaceutical executives, venture capitalist, medical writers and clinical study managers) to get “where they wanted to go”.  For example, one student, who was interested in regulatory affairs, went to the dean of her medical school to get the funds necessary to go to a national regulatory affairs meeting rather than attending an annual society meeting to present her research findings. Today, she is a director of regulatory affairs at a major biotechnology company. Another student, wrote reviews for an online financial services company regarding the technology behind various private and publicly traded biotechnology companies as a graduate student, now works for a financial service company as an analyst. Finally, another student who was interested in technology transfer was able to leverage an unpaid internship in his university’s technology transfer office into a full time job (he is now a director of the office).

The bottom line: while obtaining another degree or certificate may better position you for a possible career change, it may not be emotionally or financially possible or likely. That said, rather than fantasizing about what may have been if you simply chose law or medicine or business over a graduate career in science, you best shot at changing the direction of your career may be to identify alternative career options and obtaining the necessary skillsets, qualifications and real life experience to make it a reality, Once you have identified those things, the next step is to devise a financially-viable plan to obtain them and then spend the majority of your waking hours successfully implementing the plan. It won’t be easy but as the old adage goes “if there is a will then there is a way.”

Until next time……

Good Luck and Good Job Hunting!!!!!!


Another Sign That Pharma Companies Will Rely Less on Internal R&D Programs

Posted in BioBusiness

The drug maker Eli Lilly and Co quietly launched a new website today for a program dubbed Lilly Phenotypic Drug Discovery Initiative or PD2. According to the company, “The PD2 initiative is a unique opportunity for investigators from external institutions to submit proprietary compounds for potential screening in Lilly’s phenotypic assay panel. This highly collaborative process is enabled by a web-based application that facilitates efficient transfer of information between Lilly and the investigator. The PD2 screening panel is currently comprised of five modules which are relevant to therapeutic areas of long-term strategic interest, including oncology, neurological disorders, and metabolic diseases. This panel may change over time to reflect additional research interests.”

Company officials believe that program will allow it to evaluate and possibly license treatments from biotech companies and academic institutions "that are never fully evaluated as potential drug candidates." The launch of the PD2 website—perhaps the first of its kind—clearly sends a signal that pharmaceutical companies are reducing their reliance on internal discovery programs to identify prospective new molecular entities and are eager to enter into licensing deals to find and acquire them. 

Membership in the PD2 requires that a legal representative from the investigator’s academic institution or biotech company executes a Material Transfer Agreement (MTA). Once the MTA is reviewed and approved by Lilly officials, the institution can create an account. Until that time, use of the site is limited to browsing only. I have no doubt that technology transfer offices at most major universities will be signing up for membership in short order.

I think the PD2 initiative is an innovative and timely one given the massive reductions in R&D jobs that have taken place at many pharma companies over the past two years. Expect other pharma companies to follow Lilly’s lead.

Until next time….

Good Luck and Good Job Hunting!!!!!

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