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Do a Phd in Canada and then get back to Corporate / Industry – Yay or Nay?


I’ve been debating this myself, since the time I learned that I have gained admission to a Phd program at the Institute for Big Data Analytics at Dalhousie University, NS, Canada.

It was exciting at first and wanted to quit my job and jump onboard no sooner I learned of it. But then the budding analyst in me kicked in, and I took a step back and realized that I am going to do my research, so why not do a little research (digging in) to see what people have to say about doing your Phd with plans of getting back into the corporate / industry workforce.

Career

After speaking to a lot of Phd holders, Professors, colleagues, friends, family and a lot googling, I found a few points that helped me make my decision. Read the information below (especially the little excerpts shown in qoutes) before you take this plunge.

HOW MANY PHD’S DO YOU KNOW WHO WORK FOR CORPORATES?

When I spoke to my fellow post doctorate friends, this was the first thing I asked them, “How many Phd’s do you know who are currently working for a corporate?”.

And, for some reason they only responded in Binary digits (0 or 1)!!

Private sector in Canada hires only 4 per cent PhDs compared to the 42 per cent hired in the United States.” – The Huffington Post. Read full article.

Now this will vary from country to country, city to city and also based on your field of research.

For instance, if you have a Phd in Computer Science / Biology / Applied Mathematics or a combination of them you will get calls by big Healthcare / Analytical corporations.

“In Canada, PhDs unemployment rate is even worse: 50 per cent more than Masters (6 per cent as compared to 4 per cent).” – The Huffington Post. Read full article.

If you are willing to go against those odds, is proof by itself that you are passionate about your research and must go for it without any second thoughts.

Many things remain the same no matter which country you apply to, like this comment here –

Many HR departments will view the PHD and assume that you wouldn’t be satisfied with the pay levels that are set to attract people with Bachelors or were self-taught. Even if you declare you’re fine with it, there’s the assumption that your job dissatisfaction will be very high after a few months and you will view the work as beneath you.” – by dcousineau. Read full discussion on reddit.

It is advisable to be straight forward and mention your salary expectations in your cover letter so that they know you are willing to work for a reasonable pay.

That being said, you must have a dream role / designation / job title in your mind before you commence your Phd. And work towards it; In that way, you will not be dissatisfied with your role or willl not be doing work that is ‘beneath’ you. This is exactly what is said below, in different words –

There’s still a lot of prejudice against post-grad degrees in the industry, and listing a PHD on your resume may actively harm your chances at landing a job. The one exception to this rule is if your PHD is extremely focused and you’re looking for a job that perfectly matches your focus.” – by dcousineau. Read full discussion on reddit.

There are also HR departments that view a Phd student as a person who worked for a university with minimum pay for the past 4 or 5 years and try to take advantage of that fact. Be confident, and be bold. You know how much you deserve.

MONEY IN YOUR POCKET

Willingness to accept a minimum pay (funding) for 4 or 5 years while doing your research, while your friends move up the corporate ladders and buy fancy cars, is something you will have to deal with for a very long time until you find your spot in the corporate jungle.

PhDs, even after five to six more years of schooling, earn only 8 per cent more than Masters. In U.S., they earn 43 per cent more.” – The Huffington Post. Read full article.

This may sound clichéd, but if you are passionate enough, doesn’t matter in which field you’ve obtained your Phd, companies like Wallmart, Google Alphabets will have a spot for you!!; And they pay BIIIGGGGG!!

It is the market leaders that seem to respect, value and strive on Phd holders.

4-YEARS, ARE YOU SURE?

…looking at studies on PhD completion times at Canadian universities, it is clear that the vast majority of students do not finish in four years: the average post-master’s completion time is about five years, according to a 2003 report by Frank Elgar, Dalhousie University (PDF).” – University Affairs. Read full article.

ENVIRONMENT

Another important factor to consider when selecting your University is the city, campus, department, life style and weather. Otherwise, you will spend 5 long years walking in the corridors of the university shaking your head, trapped by the weather, or because there is nothing fun that the University campus can offer.

ALL HOPE IS NOT LOST

If you’ve come this far you may have realized that there is no universal answer to this as it varies from case to case

You can very well do a PhD and wind up with much more impressive experience than you would get at your average entry level position. For example, there are students who work with governments and large corporations solving very real issues like traffic congestion and automated threat detection etc. All this depends on your research lab and how much you yourself put into it. If at the end of your PhD all you have is the word PhD on your resume along with some publications on theory, then that’s on you.” – by pamme. Read full discussion on reddit.

But, what is common for all prospective Phd students is that you have to choose a field that you are willing to sleep, eat, dream and think about for the next 4 or 5 years.

Don’t quit your job; Instead create a new one : If you wish to get back into the industry immediately after your Phd, one way to do it is to narrow down and select a field that is relevant to your employer and the University. It must be a topic that will benefit / solve a real world problem for the company. In this way you can establish that bridge between your employer and the University, and do your Phd in a mutually beneficial topic, while working at the company. It’s not only a win-win situation. It is a win(employer)-win(university)-win(you) situation.

What’s most important is for prospective PhDs is to have a clear understanding not only of the competitive conditions for academic jobs, but also the range of possibilities opened up by doctoral education, which are far more diverse than those generally presented in graduate programmes. Those possibilities must also be developed actively through collaboration between universities, governments, other non-academic organizations and students, so that the promise of advanced education isn’t lost due to lack of mentorship, guidance and opportunity.” –  The Global and Mail. Read full article.

To the future 2% of the world, good luck.. and to the 98%.. good luck as well. : )

Let me know your thoughts. How many Phd’s do you know that work in the private sector?