27 and a PhD

Home » Grad school » Which PhD is needed in the market the most – Search terms, short answers

Which PhD is needed in the market the most – Search terms, short answers

Welcome to my blog!

Hello there, awesome reader. My name is Dr. 27. I'm older than that now, but I'm staying faithful to the origins of the blog.

This blog started 2 months before completing my PhD in a pretty southern university back in 2009. It was a way to practice my writing and take a break from all things thesis. My PhD is in a branch of structural biology where I studied some rather impressive stuff.

After completing the degree, I packed my life of 6 years in 3 days and moved to Canada to do a postdoc in a completely different field. Two years later, and after attending a lot of seminars, workshops and doing some much-needed soul-searching, I ended up getting out and looking for an alternative path to academia and industry.

The blog chronicles my mishaps, ideas, musings and tips on entering, staying and finishing grad school. It also talks about some (or a lot) of personal stuff. For a while, the blog became a place to talk about the frustrations of not knowing what to do after PhD. I wanted to explore alternatives to the traditional paths of research (academia, industry and goverment) whilst going back to my field of training (if at all possible). Eventually a job materialized. Follow my quest as I navigate the waters of being a staff scientist at a core facility.

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This is a really interesting, and not easy question to answer. Not easy because it’s hard to predict, in my opinion. It depends somewhat on what and where you see yourself at the end of your grad school run. And it also depends on what’s “hot” out there in terms of science. I’m gonna go out on a limb here and just mention some cases I’ve seen happen through the years.

In a way science might be a bit like fashion, it has its seasons where certain things are super hot. Ten, probably 15 years ago PCR and yeast genetics were “da bomb.” Don’t get me wrong, because these techniques and organisms are important and are  still  key in today’s science. But 10-15 years ago it seemed as if everything people wanted to do was work on yeast and/or do PCR, that was their thesis and their life. Before that was DNA,  before that hemoglobin … you see a pattern here. I’m not saying there’s anything wrong studying problems and solving them using yeast or PCR, but today it seems as if pharmacology, bioinformatics, neuroscience and some cell bio are the “it kids” in terms of topics and techniques tto do or know, thus today if you had your PhD in those topics you’d probably stand a better chance of finding a job and a project you like within your geographical area. I think (from what I’ve seen at job postings which I’ve been monitoring closely for the last year) that universities are actively recruiting in those areas. Now, will those areas will still be hot in 4-7 years, by the time you’ll be done if you were to start your PhD today? There’s no way to predict what will happen, but from experience, even though my topic and technique are highly valued and super interesting (and a rare gem in my opinion), they’re not in demand in the geographical areas where I’m interested in pursuing a long term career. So, this just serves to say that you need to consider your options carefully. Go to a lab where you not only enjoy the topic, and research, but also where you’ll be equipped with transferable skills in case you’re stuck in a situation like mine, or explore your geographical options and see what’s needed more and how you can train in those areas so that you (hopefully) stand a better chance of getting your desired job. I partly blame my choice of lab and topic for why I didn’t keep up with some of the “hot” techniques used in say … 75% of labs, and why I’m doing a postdoc where I’m doing it and in what I’m doing it. I want to get in contact with my cell bio and biochem side, so that my lack of knowledge will not impede my future success.

As always, leave a comment or send an email if you have any questions or want to talk about your experience and want some insight.

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5 Comments

  1. polz says:

    Your blog is really helpful! I am a first year graduate student and I have hardly begun research and I am already thinking that I want to leave because this sucks. I knew gradute school would be tough but this is just driving me insane and im beginning to wonder why I am doing this in the first place and its still only the first year. And the truth is that I dont know why im doing it. The answer I guess is that I thought its the next thing to do and you cannot get a good job/position in science if you just have a bachelors. I enjoy science alot. I love reading about it and talking about it but doing this tedious work is driving me crazy. I don’t know how much longer I can take it and its making me depressed and irritated and angry and I have to put my engagement/marriage on hold because of being in grad school now. Its killing me.

  2. 28 says:

    Hi Polz! I’m so sorry you’re feeling like that. But yes, the 1st year of grad school, with all of the adjustments and emotional roller coasters drives you a bit insane. If you need someone to talk to or de-compress feel free to drop a line (stitchick at gmail dot com … this is so that spammers have a harder time invading my inbox). It’s more normal than one would think, all the feelings, especially regarding how “little” one feels it is accomplished during the 1st year. I bet that unless you have a nasty PI he/she won’t mind that not “much” was accomplished research wise. I questioned my decision to do a PhD pretty much every week of my grad school life. Even after finishing, I still question it. I wondered whether the long hours, little pay, much sacrifice and politics was worth it. In the end, having my papers published was worth the sweat. I’m very forward about suggesting the following, but if you can, talk to a counselor about ways to cope with the stress. You cannot imagine how helpful that was. I completely understand how frustrating it is to put life on hold, but, as you progress you will start to gain some control and things will fall on their place, so don’t despair. Talk to a counselor and maybe even a career counselor and he or she can help you narrow down where in science do you fit and maybe you can even change a little bit the direction you’re going so it will feel less stressful. Good luck and again, thanks for visiting and commenting. I am only honored to be of a bit of help.

  3. […] New PhD grads, no jobs – This one is great. I recently read an article published by University Affairs. It says that grad students should know how the job market is performing and really be informed. While it is true that many hands are needed, not much money is available, or great bosses, or desirable locations. Add to this mix that it is almost always said that several profs will retire soon (though it hardly ever materializes) and there’s a recipe for disaster in the way of many well prepared students with few desirable options to put their skills to test. How do I know this? I wrote and/or contacted approximately 50 PIs before joining my current lab. Out of those 50, probably 15 replied, and only 3 offered jobs, but one was WAY to far, and the second one retracted, which left me with a job, or none. So, I swallowed my pride, accepted the offer, even though I knew it was in an are totally foreign to me, and here I am. Glad that I have a job, but not too passionate about it. So reader, yes, check out your options, diversify your expertise (by learning as many skills as you can) and network. Two good places for a start are this and this. I also wrote a longer entry here. […]

  4. Tony Vincent says:

    Life and the future are a lottery at the moment. I would suggest a PHD in something that will help save the planet or reduce output or something. My PHD turned out to be worthless.

    Oh to be young again.

  5. Dr. 29 says:

    Thanks for your comment. You are completely right.

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