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Industry vs Academia

To conduct this survey, The Scientist invited 1800 readers via E-mail to respond to a web-based survey form. There were a total of 220 responses from March 2 to 12, 2001, a response rate of 12.2%. Have you held research positions in both academia and industry? (Positions may include graduate research, industrial internships, or any other research positions - paid or unpaid - in both work environments).   Percent Count Answers 72.6% 159/219 Yes 27.4% 60/219 No

April 16, 2001

To conduct this survey, The Scientist invited 1800 readers via E-mail to respond to a web-based survey form. There were a total of 220 responses from March 2 to 12, 2001, a response rate of 12.2%.

  1. Have you held research positions in both academia and industry? (Positions may include graduate research, industrial internships, or any other research positions - paid or unpaid - in both work environments).

     
    Percent
    Count
    Answers
    72.6%
    159/219
    Yes
    27.4%
    60/219
    No


  2. How many years have you been in full-time employment?
     
    Percent
    Count
    Answers
    3.6%
    6/169
    Less than 2 years
    9.5%
    16/169
    2 - 5 years
    23.7%
    40/169
    6 - 10 years
    32.5%
    55/169
    11 - 20 years
    30.8%
    52/169
    Over 20 years


  3. How many years have you spent working in industry?
     
    Percent
    Count
    Answers
    30.3%
    50/165
    Less than 2 years
    30.9%
    51/165
    2 - 5 years
    19.4%
    32/165
    6 - 10 years
    10.3%
    17/165
    11 - 20 years
    9.1%
    15/165
    Over 20 years


  4. Overall which environment do you prefer?
     
    Percent
    Count
    Answers
    39.5%
    66/167
    Academia
    42.5%
    71/167
    Industry
    18.0%
    30/167
    No preference


  5. What differences have you noticed (if any) between industry and academia?

     
    a)
    Work pace
    (1- slower in industry, 4-equal, 7- faster in industry)
     
    Percent
    Count
    Answers
    1.9%
    3/161
    1
    2.5%
    4/161
    2
    5.6%
    9/161
    3
    24.8%
    40/161
    4
    12.4%
    20/161
    5
    28.6%
    46/161
    6
    24.2%
    39/161
    7
    b)
    Politics
    (1- less political in industry, 4-equal, 7- more political in industry)
     
    Percent
    Count
    Answers
    2.5%
    4/162
    1
    13.6%
    22/162
    2
    11.7%
    19/162
    3
    35.2%
    57/162
    4
    11.1%
    18/162
    5
    18.5%
    30/162
    6
    7.4%
    12/162
    7
    c)
    Learning environment
    (1- less learning in industry, 4-equal, 7- greater learning in industry)
     
    Percent
    Count
    Answers
    11.9%
    19/160
    1
    23.8%
    38/160
    2
    23.1%
    37/160
    3
    26.3%
    42/160
    4
    6.9%
    11/160
    5
    7.5%
    12/160
    6
    0.6%
    1/160
    7
    d)
    Pressure to publish
    (1- less pressure in industry, 4-equal, 7 - greater pressure in industry)
     
    Percent
    Count
    Answers
    34.6%
    55/159
    1
    35.8%
    57/159
    2
    17.0%
    27/159
    3
    8.2%
    13/159
    4
    1.9%
    3/159
    5
    0.6%
    1/159
    6
    1.9%
    3/159
    7
    e)
    Opportunity for career development
    (1- fewer opportunities in industry, 4-equal, 7- more opportunities in industry)
     
    Percent
    Count
    Answers
    2.5%
    4/163
    1
    6.7%
    11/163
    2
    5.5%
    9/163
    3
    16.6%
    27/163
    4
    20.2%
    33/163
    5
    24.5%
    40/163
    6
    23.9%
    39/163
    7
    f)
    Opportunity for career advancement
    (1- fewer opportunities in industry, 4-equal, 7- more opportunities in industry)
     
    Percent
    Count
    Answers
    3.1%
    5/162
    1
    6.8%
    11/162
    2
    3.1%
    5/162
    3
    12.3%
    20/162
    4
    15.4%
    25/162
    5
    34.0%
    55/162
    6
    25.3%
    41/162
    7
    g)
    Opportunity for greater income
    (1- less potential in industry, 4-equal, 7- greater potential in industry)
     
    Percent
    Count
    Answers
    0.0%
    0/162
    1
    0.0%
    0/162
    2
    1.2%
    2/162
    3
    3.1%
    5/162
    4
    4.3%
    7/162
    5
    24.7%
    40/162
    6
    66.7%
    108/162
    7
    h)
    Job security
    (1- less in industry, 4-equal, 7- more in industry)
     
    Percent
    Count
    Answers
    9.9%
    16/162
    1
    24.7%
    40/162
    2
    14.8%
    24/162
    3
    25.3%
    41/162
    4
    10.5%
    17/162
    5
    9.3%
    15/162
    6
    5.6%
    9/162
    7
    i)
    Better science
    (1- lower quality in industry, 4-equal, 7- better quality in industry)
     
    Percent
    Count
    Answers
    6.3%
    10/158
    1
    13.9%
    22/158
    2
    16.5%
    26/158
    3
    44.3%
    70/158
    4
    8.2%
    13/158
    5
    7.0%
    11/158
    6
    3.8%
    6/158
    7
    j)
    Creativity freedom
    (1- less freedom in industry, 4-equal, 7- more freedom in industry)
     
    Percent
    Count
    Answers
    19.8%
    32/162
    1
    27.2%
    44/162
    2
    25.3%
    41/162
    3
    22.2%
    36/162
    4
    2.5%
    4/162
    5
    1.2%
    2/162
    6
    1.9%
    3/162
    7
    k)
    Overall job satisfaction
    (1- less satisfaction in industry, 4-equal, 7- more satisfaction in industry)
     
    Percent
    Count
    Answers
    3.1%
    5/162
    1
    13.6%
    22/162
    2
    17.9%
    29/162
    3
    20.4%
    33/162
    4
    13.6%
    22/162
    5
    21.6%
    35/162
    6
    9.9%
    16/162
    7


  6. Please give us any additional comments on the differences, or mention other differences you have noticed?

    There are many times capitol equipment barriers to conducting your research the way you would like in academics that does not usually exist in industry
    When in graduate school my goal was to work either in academia or in the pharmaceutical field. I considered these as Ivory Tower Research areas. The last place I wanted to go was to work in the food field. Circumstances were such that I worked two years in the pharmaceutical field and ended up working for a food company. I was wrong about the food industry. It is just as challenging and opportunities abound. There is great need for basic research in the Food Industry.
    About learning environment: In big company you have the opportunities to take classes. Most classes are not in your field.
    More structure in industry; less freedom to schedule own time for productive work (as opposed to "being there" to satisfy superiors.
    Industry values patents and products. Those are the deliverables in industry. Grants, publications and excellent teaching at many institutions are the deliverables in academics. I was more interested in producing products that impact the health of people directly.
    Politics are much more personal in academia, i.e. Concept of lineage based on laboratory of training
    Better funding in industry
    In industry, it is easy to end up reporting to someone who is totally incompetent.
    'Academic freedom' no longer exists in the vast majority of universities. Tenure was instituted to protect people from political decisions and it has become a mockery of itself as it promotes inbreeding, old-boyism and rejects new thinking. Tenure in some top places is not corrupt, but the majority of academic institutions are not at the 'top'.

    In some places where tenure is political you can only get it if you play by old boy rules. Where I work now, the women are making the rules. Plus I make a lot more money. I got tenure, but the dirt you have to eat isn't worth it.

    Until academics stops abusing women there is no reason for any woman in her right mind to accept a faculty position.
    I prefer the academic setting after experience both areas.
    The greatest advantage of academe is the opportunity to redefine your area of interest. As long as you can maintain your funding and interest students, you are relatively free to embark in new area.
    The slow pace and the inability to face one's peers to discuss and argue in obtaining funding for research in academia is very frustrating. This is not the case in industry research.
    In academia a professor can teach and choose to spend all the remainder of his/her time on politics. This can make politics much more critical in academia.
    In industrial research, the scientist must be prepared to stop a research project and move onto the next project in return for complete funding from the corporation.
    Academia requires teaching, research, and service. Industry requires research.
    One major difference I noted was that industrial research permitted me to attend more scientific conferences and follow all patents issued in my field than was true in academia.
    I should preface my remarks with the comment that I feel very comfortable in both sectors, but they do have distinct differences and many scientists assume the "old tales" about industrial research.

    The very top people in industry, company vice presidents, etc., tend to be culled from government positions. In my experience, these individuals are farther removed from, and have a much poorer understanding of basic research principles than their equivalent academic counterparts.
    In academia you are much more likely to succeed or fail based on the quality of your own work. In academia you are much more on your own, you must successfully compete for grants and publish in top journals. In industry, the success of your team will be important, but in most cases the decisions are made and liabilities are shouldered are at a higher level. Decisions on the fate on a particular project or avenue of investigation are based on a variety of issues beyond good or interesting science. A project may continue or end based on business or competitive reasons. Industry is very happy to have you publish, but will not specifically allow you time to do so and will not sacrifice any competitive position to allow it. Success in industry (career advancement) is very achievable, but is based on different parameters than success in academia.
    Politics in academia is more of problem compared to industry. In industry everyone is working for a company whose achievement would reflect on scientists there. In academia you are successful before somebody else steals your idea. Generally the more established member of stuff.
    I have had laboratory and Information experience in industry. In the laboratory experience, I found that there was less interest in scientific study and much more interest in potential for making money, which wasn't too surprising since industry's purpose is to make money; however, my experience provided an excess in the profit motive.

    My experience in the information field was too remote from motivation of profit; hence, it was closer to an academic atmosphere than an industrial career; however, many of the scientists I communicated with revealed that they had similar problems to the problems I experienced in the laboratory.
    Benefits are better in industry
    In academics one of the main goals is publication, which may take awhile. This can be discouraging, especially if you have difficulty breaking up the job into smaller short term goals. Unfortunately, the short term goals in academics don't mean much unless you can pull it together for a publication in the end. In my job at a biotech company, I have a number of short term goals to keep me going. The completion of each short term goal is valuable to the company, so upper management takes notice. I feel more of a sense of accomplishment as I complete each goal, and I am rewarded more for my efforts. With each goal completed I feel I am closer to career advancement.
    Efficiency - industry is much more efficient with regard to the application of resources to their best use.

    Focus - industry is much more focused and targeted although you might not always agree with the target.

    Results and action-orientation of industry work can be more satisfying for some.

    Basic research can be interesting but not enough effort is expended in translating the results into effective policy. It gets down to the difference between 'what' and 'so what', or putting knowledge to work.

    Freedom and flexibility are much greater in academia.
    For basic research, academia is better. There are more ways to DO and enjoy science in industry if you like challenges and enjoy working with people from a variety of disciplines. Applied science (product and process development) is much more exciting in industry than academia or government.
    Better protocols in industry
    The longer scientists are in academia, the better their chances in industry
    The science in industry is more focused and more controlled. The choice of projects is business-oriented
    The company has the authority to decide what you have to do. You have the right to do what you can do if you can get grants.
    The differences noted are largely dependent on circumstances. For instance, I was in biotech at the start when there was sufficient money to do solid basic and applied research; today, much biotech/pharma research is entirely product oriented, with science often taking a distant back seat. This may not sit well with those that get satisfaction in innovative and investigator driven inquiry. Academia (I'm learning) also depends much on where and at what level.
    I work in a private nonprofit institute. I considered this to be "industry" for purposes here.

    My view is that industry research is full time, whereas academic research time is shared with other large commitments like teaching.
    The company I was in was very paternalistic (in the stifling sense). Admin didn't listen to the bench folks or else they would have known a lot of projects they were researching were harebrained.
    At least in my experiences, the money in industry is much more readily available compared to labs that run on shoestring budgets. If a good idea is brought up that is in line with the overall endeavors of the company there is capital there to push it through.
    You may be working under a person that has less science education than you do. There are many layers of supervision to the person has to get used to.
    The industry environment tends to focus on quick decision making and doesn't often follow things through to their logical conclusion. Most decisions are profit-driven rather than science driven. This can be very frustrating for someone interested in the scientific method. One major advantage of industry, however, is the ability to make a great deal of progress quickly as money tends to not interfere with research. In my experience, resources have been much more limited in academia than they are in industry.
    The major difference is that industry research, and thus your job, is program-determined. When the program has run its life, so has your current job. You may or may not be able to stay, whether your work was satisfactory or not. This is not true in academia - if your work earns you tenure or a regular salary, generally to stay or not to stay is your choice.
    Industrial research is primarily objective oriented while academia allows more curiosity driven research which in my opinion more often leads to novel discoveries. However, industrial research facilities often act as a catalyst for progression from academic ideas to product development and production. In many ways, the two have become quite symbiotic.
    Industry is now leading the way in genome and proteome techniques. Currently, they are driving the future of these areas with collaborations from academia and from new startups/IPOs. Since drug discovery drives the industry then proteomics will become the next vastly under-appreciated new frontier. Therefore, I see industry continuing to drive 'hot' research areas for the foreseeable future with academia lagging behind.
    Initiative and dedication will afford one many opportunities in industry.
    My experience in industry was that the pressure to obtain the results which the industry wished was greater than the pressure to ensure that the experiments were properly replicated and well-controlled. Those scientists who "got the results that management wanted" advanced, while those who didn't (even though the experimental procedures were sometimes more thorough) did not advance. I found this to be ethically unacceptable and have not experienced the same in academia.
    Certainly the opportunities for a non-PhD scientist are much greater in industry.
    I prefer the academic setting as I would like to pursue my own research interests. However, too much time is spent in academia acquiring support and the commitment to teaching and student service sometimes becomes inordinately time consuming. However the freedom in academia outweighs all of the cons.
    The "learning environment" is really not better or worse in industry, just different. I miss teaching, but certainly have learned a lot of things that I never heard of in academia.
    The best difference with industry is not having to write grants ad nauseum and deal with the luck of the draw as to who actually reviews them.
    Seventy to eighty hour work weeks in industry compared to 40-50 hours/ per week. Thus, salary/hour worked is not as high as what some academic workers are making if they only put in a 40-50 hour week.

    Time lines and pressure to get the work done creates a stressful work environment. If laboratory work fails then supervisor (not technician) works the weekend to meet the time line. More time working on the weekend was required.

    Lack of personal regard and understanding in the industrial environment.

    Academic positions are more lenient on expectant mothers allowing them to work lighter schedules and take more time off than what I received and observed when I worked in industry. The more senior the position the less likely that you will be accommodated.
    My responses need to be given context, in that I am working in a startup company where creativity and innovation are rewarded. I know from experience that this would be exceptional in larger companies, where conformance and status-quo are prized.
    I cannot comment on the pressure to publish or the quality of the science vis-à-vis the two environments. However, I felt the political environment in the academic sphere was certainly not to my liking.
    Academia allows you to be totally creative but industry tests your creativity on a predetermined subject. Industry dictates your subject but rewards you with more money.
    I have found working in industry to be more collaborative. More people working towards a common goal however this is based on my experience and other academic institutions outside that may have a more collaborative environment.
    Lack of mentoring in academia
    I'm at a small startup company so, my experience is a bit biased here, but I appreciate the decreased bureaucracy in my company as opposed to academia.
    Another reason for choosing industry was time in lab. Even as a senior scientist in industry, there is significant lab time. The senior PIs that I worked with in academia were busy with grants, teaching, committees, study sections, manuscript reviews, etc., and were rarely in lab to physically contribute to their own science.
    Treatment of employees in industry is much better than academia. Personal behavior is more dominant in academia than industry. Therefore, most of the employees are eventually hurt in academia one way to another.
    Better recognition in industry for PhDs doing disease-oriented research
    Industry is much more focused than academia, which can be either an advantage or a disadvantage, depending on one's interests. In my experience, people work much harder in industry (in my experience, small biotech companies) because they know that if they don't the job, and maybe the whole company, will end. A strong motivator, which is actually very invigorating -- because one also knows that the workers may be able to make the company successful through their hard work. After 15 years in industry, I made the move to academia because I have always liked teaching and was ready for a change of focus. I have been in academia for a little over a year now, and enjoy it immensely; but I'm glad that I spent time in industry, where there were some down's but also many up's. In general, I'm finding that people in academia do much more talking (endless committee meetings) than in industry, and tend to be less focused on, though not entirely unconcerned about, concrete outcomes. Nevertheless, it's a lot of fun, and the students certainly keep us on our toes. I'm glad I made the change.
    Industry want's engineers (someone who can/will apply information) that do no want scientists (someone who will work to discover new information).
    Must get grants in academia to have maximum freedom to pursue interests. Basically, a constant struggle to maintain funding levels. Constant pressure to produce and write applications and progress reports. Industry has priorities and if you can live with these priorities the money is usually there to do what you want.
    Academia offers much more freedom.
    More focus on periodic performance evaluation in industry.
    There are no worries to write grant proposals and get them funded to support the laboratory research, students, and staff.
    A lot of these answers would depend on the industry. For instance working at Lockheed's Skunkworks can be very academically satisfying, while working in a biotech firm doing high throughput can be like piecework in a shoeshop in the 1950's. Also, if one is in an academic setting where there are some bright students, there can be a satisfaction there usually not seen in industry.


  7. If you left academia for industry at some point in your career, what were your reasons for leaving?
     
    Percent
    Count
    Answers
    5.5%
    12/220
    Work pace
    11.8%
    26/220
    Politics
    2.3%
    5/220
    Learning environment
    3.6%
    8/220
    Pressure to publish
    30.0%
    66/220
    Opportunity for career development
    29.5%
    65/220
    Opportunity for career advancement
    42.3%
    93/220
    Opportunity for greater income
    10.5%
    23/220
    Job security
    4.5%
    10/220
    Better science
    1.8%
    4/220
    Freedom for creativity
    15.9%
    35/220
    Overall job satisfaction
    21.4%
    47/220
    Greater benefits
    22.3%
    49/220
    Available employment
    10.9%
    24/220
    Preferred environment
    7.7%
    17/220
    Other


  8. If you left industry to return to academia at some point in your career, what were your reasons for leaving?
     
    Percent
    Count
    Answers
    9.1%
    20/220
    Work pace
    8.2%
    18/220
    Politics
    16.8%
    37/220
    Learning environment
    1.4%
    3/220
    Pressure to publish
    8.2%
    18/220
    Opportunity for career development
    8.2%
    18/220
    Opportunity for career advancement
    1.4%
    3/220
    Opportunity for greater income
    10.0%
    22/220
    Job security
    16.4%
    36/220
    Better science
    23.6%
    52/220
    Freedom for creativity
    14.1%
    31/220
    Overall job satisfaction
    0.5%
    1/220
    Greater benefits
    4.1%
    9/220
    Available employment
    13.2%
    29/220
    Preferred environment
    4.1%
    9/220
    Other


  9. What advice would you give to a research scientist who is proposing to switch from academia to industry.

    You may expect better, much better income, but not better scientific achievement.
    Ensure that promises of research environment (funding and support), duties/roles, etc. are in writing prior to accepting the job.
    Prepare yourself for a more fast paced project oriented environment
    Prepare to be a team player, flexible and listen to colleagues.
    Go for it.
    If person has a Ph. D. Degree and is a good scientist, I think he should stay in academia.
    Think about the loss of research freedom
    Check out both situations carefully. Do not make a change for the sake of change.
    Keep your mind and horizons open to the differences between the various environments. You will like the changes.
    Go for it!
    Explore different companies. Some work on a more academic philosophy others having therapeutic area or target based groups others do science with more technique based groups and therefore operate a conveyor belt type system i.e.. The cloners do the cloning passing the clone to the expression guys who then pass the cell line to the assay development groups. I prefer to have a mixture of all aspects.
    Make sure what you want to do and be mentally prepared.
    Right choice
    Make sure you can publish your research at some point;
    Benefits should be outlined; stock options should be fully explained
    Watch your back, front and side. Every now and then, piss in the corner to mark off your territory
    Go for it!
    Seriously look at the advantages and disadvantages of the two areas. Make a list of these before making a final decision.
    Be very careful especially if the switch is later in your career. There may be no going back
    Timelines are real and slow performance cannot be tolerated. The pressure forces one to focus considerably more on the important questions.
    Wait until they have sufficient experience in academia to allow them to enter industry at a level allowing them to pursue their research in the way that they feel is most likely to lead to success. Too many bright young investigators are pigeonholed in industry doing work that is glorified technician's work.
    Also, recognize that in industry there are a number of paths to advancement. In academia, there is only one -- getting more dollars for your programs than your faculty competition.
    Say good-bye to your academic freedom but embrace the efficiency and focus.
    Industry, like universities, has different levels of research emphasis. Some companies spend over $4 billion per year on research and others are like the small universities that have to concentrate on production and sales (teaching) and do less research.
    You need to select the proper level in both sectors.
    Realize that the two are quite different. Industry is more demanding of your time and talent, but the rewards are far superior - both economically and professionally.
    I would warn that they might find that academic science is very different than industrial research. One often finds that the background and preliminary studies that are the basis of a research project are flawed. In academia, nobody would be willing to base a research plan on flawed preliminary data as this would likely lead to a lack of productivity in the not-to-distant future. However, in a small biotech company, one may find that the flawed preliminary data is what was used to secure capital funding in the first place. Consequently, the administrators who sold the venture people on these results will be very reluctant to admit to their funding sources that their sales pitch was based on flawed data. The result is that the researchers are then asked to continue working on "C", when everyone knows that "A" and "B" have never really been established. This, in turn, results in a cynical work force that is essentially asked to exchange scientific integrity and curiosity for increased salaries.

    The reason this is often acceptable is because the time frame necessary to accomplish the scientific goals of a small company are far too long for the investors. Consequently, the goal is to sell the company or its technology to a larger company, or through an IPO, etc., to make a relatively quick profit. Profit is not obtained by accomplishing some long-term research goal that may or may not lead to a marketable product. So again, maintaining that the basic concept, based on the preliminary data, is correct is much more important than worrying about whether, in the long term, the project will fail because of errors in the model.
    Get your opportunities for advancement explained in advance
    In my experience, the pace in industry is much faster and deadlines are imposed frequently. The difficult part is when you want to pursue something, but the business has decided to abandon it or turn it over to another group. The major key to success in industry is flexibility and the ability to adapt to a constantly changing paradigm. In 4 years I had 4 bosses, each with a different management style and a different set of expectations.
    Evaluate the reasons behind the move. Academia gives you the freedom of research while you can find funding. Otherwise the greatest scientists are thrown away from where the future of countries are educated. As a British scientist I have been surprised with the ethics of academic profession in USA. It is unfortunate when academic institutions are allowed to become money making bases.
    Better income in industry provide better satisfaction that everyone need.
    Proceed with caution.
    Go ahead and have a taste for yourself! You'll find out whichever environment you like only after you have tried both.
    Be prepared to have a project you have devoted your time to disappear overnight
    Realize that the motivation for making money is natural for industrial companies; hence, don't deceive yourself in thinking that you will have the same work experience in industry that you had in academia, along with making more money.
    Keep an open mind. Be aware of positions other than at the bench
    1) Make sure you can switch directions easily and try not to get too emotionally attached to your projects!
    2) Stay focused and keep an eye on production-- prioritize projects and try to have at least one "success" to show upper management each time you meet with them.
    3) Don't just point out potential problems-- Solve Them! (Or if you can't solve them right away, at least present several possibilities that you think will get you over the obstacle).
    4) If you're trying to break out of academia, network! You'll be much more likely to get the job if someone knows you.
    Spend time to develop management and presentation skills.
    Academia seems more for the 'lone wolf'. In academia too much focus on the theory can distance a person from the reality, what works on the ground as opposed to in the tidy model.

    In industry it is more effective to be a team player. Communicating and marketing the idea is be as important as creating it.
    Be prepared to produce on demand.
    Higher salary and benefits come with costs: sacrifice of time, personal creativity, ownership of work product, etc. "The grass always appears greener on the other side until you have to mow it".
    Are you interested in seeing your work result in a change in human well being? Do you like working with others who 'speak a different language'? Are you willing to do things outside your specific technical expertise? Do you like business? Do you feel you have to publish to be successful?
    Be sure that area of research will not be replaced by a new technology. Be ready and willing to change.
    See what his/ her opportunities are for advancement
    Communication is as important as good science.
    Ability to work as a team with people in remote fields (marketing, clinical sciences, chemistry, toxicology, etc.) is a key to success
    If you need more money, go to industry.
    Don't expect to get away from politics.
    Make sure you have good oral and writing skills as communication is very important. Be prepared to work hard, and often with a more formal time line for projects.
    Good pay, less intellectual freedom
    Think it over twice; perhaps the most important question to consider is whether you think you crave an environment where education and furthering the frontiers of science may be less valued than the bottom line in the corporate pocket book.
    Expect better funding, but less academic freedom.
    All companies (as all labs) have different cultures - make sure there's a match.
    If creative and self-driven research is a goal, make sure your position and the culture will allow that (esp in larger pharma).
    If early biotech, make sure you can tolerate the risks of the company changing/closing.
    If the position fits, don't be afraid to make a change.
    Investigate opportunities to publish on your own and develop
    your own projects.
    Do your homework about the company you're thinking of joining; make sure you talk to people in the trenches and, if possible, who have left there.
    Think about it long and hard. While I made that switch and am quite happy that I did, I have also observed the opposite. People that are prepared for the pace and conditions of industrial science will find a satisfying job that can be very invigorating. People that are not prepared for it will be very unhappy.
    Be prepared to make decisions more quickly with less information in hand; be flexible; understand and promote the team concept;
    Find out your job description
    Get through your dissertation work and postdoctoral training first! Then enter the industrial world. The pay is great, as are the benefits. However, be prepared to be frustrated by less control over your work and less freedom to follow ideas to their logical end. All in all, a good career can be made in industry, you just have to be prepared for a very different environment.
    Better choice if the current boss is not influential or not helpful and biased.
    Be aware of the lifetime and priority of the research program you are getting involved in. Find out as much as possible about scientific freedom in the work environment. Check the company's record on personnel dissatisfaction and personnel turnover.
    Determine if you can personally perform research on areas that may be dictated by consumer or customer needs, rather than purely curiosity driven work.
    Depending upon the level:

    as a post-doc try out major pharma
    as an entry level or higher research scientist find a good startup or intermediate-sized company
    Work in those environs for ~2 yrs and see what you prefer. Then focus on the position/job you wish to pursue.
    Don't stop publishing
    Be ready to receive orders. Decisions about your project or research path may be decided by people you have never met.
    Be prepared for the red-tape and the politics.
    It is important to understand that the goal of industry is to gain monetary profit from good science. Therefore, one needs to be willing to drop a project if it's not successful in the short term. Depending on the circumstances, persistence in an idea can be your best friend or your worst enemy in industry.
    Good for people who wants to handle challenge
    There are strict regulations to follow especially where safety is concerned. I don't feel that all the safety procedures provided a safer environment, but rather were a series of hoops used to satisfy OSHA,etc.
    Deadlines are no longer self-imposed; direction is much more top-down.
    Expect to work at a faster pace, with more documentation and quality control measures taken. There will be an increased emphasis on obtaining results, with clearly defined standards for methods and acceptable results criteria. All this makes for better science. There is usually more financial support for projects and educational programs (seminars, conferences, etc.), and more opportunity to grow scientifically, and in other facets of the business (supervisory, management, marketing, etc.). Depending on the company, creativity is encouraged, expected and rewarded highly.
    Consider critically the environment of the corporation; ask current scientists what it is like; analyze what the criteria are for advancement and annual review and what checks and balances are to ensure an accurate review; examine the practices of science and ethical behavior of the scientists in industry and ensure that they are acceptable to you.
    Although the politics may be different, they still exist in industry.
    Find out all aspects of the position and the company in mind. The uncertainties in industry, especially with a family to support, can be a major consideration for some people
    It's great not to have to deal with the grant system. I was told by many of my academic mentors that I would have no freedom to pursue research in industry. That is totally inaccurate. In industry, you are focused on research into new therapeutic targets or into making a potential drug work better. In academia, you're focused on doing whatever NIH or NSF will fund at the time. I don't believe there's more freedom in either case.
    Industry pays better too!
    Be prepared for 70-80 work weeks in order to meet assigned tasks. Expect to work weekends and evenings.

    Be prepared to have no time off so that the work can get done on time. Loss of vacation time with no pay back or chance to use it once you have been working for 2 years at the job.

    Power plays between Ph.Ds.

    No freedom to work on projects of intellectual interest since all time at work is assigned to company tasks.
    There is just as much politics in industry as there is in academia so be prepared!
    Differences between the two are getting smaller.
    Can more easily bridge the two than previously.
    Resources usually more available in industry.
    Infrastructure is much more supportive in industry.
    Less job security in industry.
    Go to a startup company if you want interesting innovative work, go to a larger company if you want more money and less work (than a startup).
    Be specific about the skills you possess, rather than the research you have done or are doing
    Find a company who's goals you agree with.
    Do an internship first to make sure it is really what you want, and to see if you can accept the differences in how things are done.
    Industry is exciting because your results could immediately turn into profit for the company. Be prepared to have less input in directing research.
    Think about what you want to be doing - basic research Vs assay development for example. Consider how your working environment will change and whether those changes are going to benefit you.
    Be less ambitious because that may not help to solve real world problems.
    You have to decide what is more important to you, more money or more stress.
    Don't.
    Make sure that career development is a high priority with your new supervisors and company
    Be prepared for a faster work pace, be flexible enough to change projects, and organized enough to do multiple tasks
    If you are not happy one way to another, do not hesitate to switch. It is always good to have a variety of experiences. It helps to grow.
    Before making the jump, try to get an internship or some type of short stint to see if this is what you really want to do.
    Industry can be very demanding but very rewarding. Prepare to focus and work hard. And if all goes well, you should be well compensated for this.
    Make sure that your training is flexible enough to pursue multiple R&D directions - must be flexible. Also, make sure personality is extroverted or flexible or else you will have constant problems with management. If you are not a "people" person stay in academia.
    Totally different hat. Focus and pace are extremely different.
    Be prepared to shift gears more frequently than in academia.
    Be mentally prepared to work on any given project that can be assigned by your supervisor or to drop the project you have been working on even if you do not agree with the corporate decision. Also, be prepared to work in a team and take a credit as a team member in most cases.
    Do it!!! It was the best choice I ever made
    Expect more rigid project deadlines and more paperwork.
    Be sure you are comfortable working within a team environment. Be sure you can separate your own self worth from that of your projects. You must remain unbiased and objective. Be prepared to have your project prioritized against other projects.
    Study the company carefully: not just its finances, but what the work environment is like. While it is true that industry does as much research, if not more, than does academe, the rewards of that research for the individual are not the same in all companies.


  10. Do you have any other comments on working in academia or industry.

    I do like teaching, but academia may be more interested in the Scientist who brings in Research Dollars. Eventually teaching becomes less of a priority.
    I want to do work that directly impacts people's health. In 1986 I found that easier to do in industry than Academics with a Ph.D. Today, it is less true, i.e. academics are interested in patents and products. Faculty are encouraged to interact with the business world to a far greater degree.
    Although I had no experience in working in industry, I still would like to be entered in the prize drawing, for fun.
    Academia is a very doggy dog world - more who you know than what you can do...
    I like the job security in academia but have to contend with less pay.
    They both have their disappointments. Harassment is a problem in both environments.
    It can be a shock (to some) to find out that colleagues without PhDs and /or MDs are every bit as bright and motivated. Much more of a "team" environment.
    Working in a national lab is markedly different than in a for-profit industry, so in the latter one must be prepared for sudden changes in direction and emphasis. Pragmatic companies sometimes don't take a sufficiently long view to maintain an effective staff
    No, but I am delighted that you are doing this survey. It is badly needed and will help graduate students, postdoctoral fellows, and their mentors. Thanks for doing this.
    The biggest problem in industry today is that young investigators are treated as technicians who have a skill as opposed to scientists who want to grow on the job. In academia, the biggest problem is politics; the clever, not the most dedicated, often get the one vacancy.
    (I feel obliged to state that I was never of victim of these shortcomings, thank heaven. But I observed them throughout my career).
    Industrial research is usually broader in scope. It is very unusual to spend 10 years doing research on the XYZ reaction in industry.
    In the part of the country I live in, there are few major corporations and most available research positions are with small biotech startups. My experience has been that VC people want to fund entrepreneurs who can give them the best spin. Generally, a scientist becomes good at "spin" in lieu of becoming good at science. Consequently, most of the small companies I am aware of perform what I would consider bad science. However, one must realize that the goal of industry is to create profit, not necessarily by doing good science. In the current economy, most small companies try to increase their value by selling their ideas and technologies to others as opposed to developing new ideas and technologies through research efforts. This is primarily a result of the fact that the vast majority of investors are looking for short term gains which are much more readily achievable by marketing what is already available as opposed to doing research to develop new value.
    It is more who you work for and what the projects involve that matters
    I enjoyed my time in industry, but wanted greater scientific freedom. I also wanted greater autonomy, but this freedom comes with a price. I am absolutely responsible for myself now, mistakes or bad decisions are very costly, there is little safety net.
    Be prepared to work long hours.
    I enjoyed the amount that I learned in academia, but I also enjoyed doing laboratory research that could lead to developing a drug, and that I could help scientists develop drugs by the information I provided them.
    There are many different types of jobs in industry (besides research) including technical support and product development. Consider these possibilities as well.
    Industry often has more up-to-date equipment. They are more product-focused rather than process-focused.
    The concept of "tenure" has been weakened to the point that the term is a farce at many schools. Tenure was originally intended to protect the academic freedom of the professors, to make them immune to retaliation by outside forces such as the administration. If "tenure" does not include a guaranteed full salary, it is truly meaningless, since the administration can then essentially fire an individual by withholding a significant percentage of their salary. Because of this, professors often no longer have true academic freedom to espouse viewpoints that may be politically unpopular.
    I find working with students far more rewarding. Even if only a few in the class "get it", I feel more satisfied than I did before.
    However, switching from industry to academia (with the pressure to obtain grant funding in a very competitive environment and the pressure to graduate students) has not been less stressful, just more satisfying to me.
    Both require a different skill set. If you are good at one it does not mean you will be good at the other.
    Both may be right depending on the individual
    There are pros and cons to both, and an applicant should carefully consider what he or she wants to achieve in his/her career.
    Academic research is as entrepreneurial as starting a new biotech venture; if you want to do your work and get a pay check, industry has its benefits.
    Academia defines what a Ph.D. can do very narrowly; it takes creativity and a pioneering spirit to be able to enter a new arena.
    I really prefer flexible work schedules that are available in academia; I actually get more work done if left to my own schedule.
    Loved both; could do either; academic environment lets me "toggle" back and forth between both as a consultant
    Academia is the welfare of education, but Industry makes a scientist more accountable.
    Academics - freedom if Principal Investigator
    Industry - More money less security
    Industry - better equipment, better salary, less freedom, much less job security
    Academia - almost the exact opposite of the above
    There is much more overlap between academia and industry today. There are opportunities to work in areas that involve both academia and industrial partners
    They both have their good and bad sides. Which area to chose is entirely dependent on personal goals. I think both areas can be fulfilling intellectually and monetarily.
    I loathe the politics in academia. The competitiveness and need to publish takes away from basic scientific research that could develop into something quite interesting. I have seen the need to publish diminish cooperativity and sharing of ideas, reagents, etc. among labs. This seems to be less of a problem in industry. In R & D in industry, I found every lab very cooperative when I had questions about procedures or needed help in designing experiments.
    I think there are definitely more opportunities for professional and personal growth and advancement in industry. There can be higher levels of stress in industry, with faster paced work and the "profit" to consider.
    I miss teaching, but found that there are still informal opportunities to teach lab assistants and summer students.
    Politically charged atmosphere.

    Pressure to publish.

    Less room for job advancement.
    No matter where you work, belief in the value of what you do is a fundamental prerequisite for job satisfaction.
    Academia is safe and slower but important to the basic research body of knowledge.
    Academia is a great area to work in if you can afford it. More and more people are being forced to leave a job they like because academia isn't willing to pay higher wages, they're going to regret it someday.
    Being born rich is probably preferable to either, if it can be arranged.
    A "sink or swim" mentality in academia does not provide a supportive environment for developing new faculty.
    I think the combination of having worked in both environments has been very beneficial to me as an individual. I see both sides of the story and I am happy that I have done it.
    Industries are good places for applied research and development to fulfill the need to develop a product or a process for commercialization in a shortest possible time. Academia, on the other hand, are great to feel proud of being an expert in a specific subject area and for teaching and training students and post-docs. Academia are also good for freedom and slow work pace.
    Above, I said that high throughput in biotech firms can be tedious thing. However, there are other aspects of these firms that have it all over academe. For instance, if I were trying to extract DNA from bone, there are very few academic labs that I would go to, while there are a large number of biotech firms that I would consider.


This survey was conducted using Infopoll - Business Intelligence Suite.

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