After the rigors of grad school and postdoctoral work are over, many a young scientist aspires to make an independent mark in the world of research. And that usually requires finding a tenure-track position at a university, joining an industrial research group, or perhaps becoming a research scientist at a government lab.

Or so goes the conventional wisdom. In fact, many Ph.D. scientists in the United States opt for something else. Instead of applying the tools of research to their own projects, they focus on helping other scientists use these tools more skillfully or efficiently. These support roles vary widely. Some scientists develop new instruments or new methodologies, while others become sales managers, computer consultants, or even entrepreneurs.

The reasons to forgo traditional research careers are many, say scientists who have done so, citing the increased interaction with people that their jobs afford, along with higher pay and greater freedom...

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