Dangers of a PhD Outside Academia

Is a PhD dangerous outside academia? Potentially - we have problems for every solution. Not to mention an potentially over analytical and over critical mindset....


I saw an interesting discussion on Twitter today about the value of a PhD. I mentioned in an earlier video, I said how I always saw myself as a researcher having done a PhD. One of the things that I feel that perhaps we don't realise is that not everyone sees the value of a PhD. And certainly as a PhD student, and potentially as a researcher, you develop some skills that I think of perhaps not just as not useful but perhaps a detriment to your life beyond a PhD. There are two things I think about.

The first is whether or not you see a problem for every solution. I guess as a researchers we're trained to identify problems. If we don't find problems we can't write research papers. If we don't find problems we can't write grants, and so as a result when we go out into the workforce, everything that people might put forward as a solution to a problem; we see how it perhaps won't work or how it could be done differently or better rather than just trying that as a solution.

The second thing that I think is a carryover from research into industry or into non-research jobs that might be a difficulty for researchers is the hyper critical nature of research. You know we talk about reviewer two comments. That's a bit of a meme at the moment. We need to be careful as researchers that when we leave academia, and I guess even in research, we shouldn't be so hyper critical. But when we leave academia, we need to be mindful that hyper criticalness is not going to win us friends, and certainly might not win us colleagues or win us jobs.

So if you've done a PhD, and you're looking to transition into a non academic role, be mindful that: (1) looking for problems everywhere isn't necessarily useful, and (2) being hypercritical weren't always help you either.