Today, we joined the Center for Emergent Materials in a workshop discussing “What Can I Do with a PhD?” The short answer is that getting an advanced degree, especially in the STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics), opens up many doors in both industry and academia. Here are some important points as a recap for those who missed out on this workshop!
First, we were joined by panelists from both industry and academia, and all panelists offered unique perspectives on what obtaining a PhD can do for your career. One important point stressed was the importance of undergraduate research! The panelists mentioned how being involved in undergraduate research can help you decide what you are interested in—as well as what you may not be interested in! Both are critical when deciding on your future career path.
In addition, the panelists stressed that no matter how involved you are with your research project—be it your undergraduate thesis, master’s, or PhD work—to always reserve time to develop “soft skills.” Skills such as communication, writing, public presentation, and networking are so important in the field of research, and are highly valuable assets to have when applying for graduate school or jobs. Besides just having technical lab skills, employers are also looking to find well-rounded candidates. The panelists in particular recommend that graduate students join—and be greatly involved in—academic societies. Volunteering at conferences or speaking at events through that academic society is a great way to make your name known and to network with other researchers in your field. Being a successful researcher means having both the technical and the people skills!
One last item—the panelists did mention that depending on the field, people with PhD’s and people without PhD’s will sometimes do the same type of work. In order to decide whether you should pursue the PhD path, you really have to think about what it is you want to do in your career, and then think backwards, asking yourself, “Do I need a PhD to do what I want to do?” The answer will vary depending on the field. However, the panelists did mention that although PhD’s and non-PhD’s will sometimes do the same work, employers will often assign people the position of project manager because they have a PhD and have more experience. It’s something to consider!
It was a great event, and we definitely learned a lot. Have a great weekend, SURI!