So you know you don’t want to be a professor, but not sure what else is out there? Welcome to the Non-Academic Career Paths section! Here we provide information about jobs and industries outside of academia. The Office of Postdoctoral Affairs also regularly invites speakers to campus and hosts recruiting events to inform postdoctoral scholars about the many job opportunities available outside of the competitive academic path.
Postdoc training profile for non-academic tracks
Unlike the academic career path, publications might not be a requirement for some entry-level, non-academic positions. Oftentimes employers look for applicants with “transferable skills” such as communication capabilities, time management skills and the ability to participate well in a team. This means that you may be qualified to apply for a non-academic job right now! Highlight transferable skills in your resume by detailing activities like giving presentations at conferences, training new members in your lab and writing reviews in your field. Although primary research publications demonstrate success and necessary skills, they may take more time to produce and showcase.
Biotechnology companies (aka “industry”)
In the past 20 years, the biotech industry has become a more dynamic space, allowing for non-traditional talent acquisition and intellectual property development. No longer is the industry dominated by pharmaceutical companies who spend billions of dollars on in-house research. Today, the biotech industry sees an influx of small startups formed around university-based technologies, often with current or former postdocs working as the primary scientists. Many startups are later acquired by larger companies and the scientists who are intimately familiar with the technology are often brought along. Knowledge of the techniques and technologies driving innovation in drug development can make you a competitive prospect for biotech and pharma companies. Current shifts in the global economy (tariffs, protectionism, nationalism, etc.) also contribute to the thriving job market. However, it’s important to remember that a majority of hires are still influenced by personal relationships and employers often rely on recommendations from current employees or a candidate’s interactions with the hiring staff. We strongly encourage you to talk to company representatives at every conference you attend. Additionally, we at KPAC are working hard to bring recruiting events to USC and connect postdocs through programs, helping you network your way to success.
For KPAC’s efforts in bridging opportunities for postdocs between academia and industry check out our connection to the Biotech Connection Los Angeles (BCLA).
Biotech Connection Los Angeles (BCLA)
As a sponsor of BCLA, KPAC has committed to participating in the enrichment of the biotech industry in the greater Los Angeles area. BCLA, a non-profit organization founded in 2014, is a partnership run and organized by graduate students and postdocs to strengthen ties between the academic capital in Los Angeles and the biotech industry.
This is facilitated through career fairs, recruitment events, networking mixers and educational workshops. To explore their upcoming events, click here. KPAC is proud to work with BCLA to promote career development for postdocs.
USA Government (NIH/FDA/CDC/Military)
Believe it or not, the government needs scientists too! Some government jobs include overseeing laboratories, leading inspections, reviewing policies, creating laws and regulations and investigating the latest epidemics. While some positions require US citizenship, most do not. Below are short descriptions and links to some of the major USA government branches that hire PhDs. You will notice that each website has contact information and links to their hiring departments including information on how to make your resume more attractive for government positions. We also encourage you to contact their Human Resources (HR) departments and talk with employees about potential opportunities. Just like in industry, sometimes opportunities are easier to find by talking to the company/organization directly rather than relying on job boards.
National Institutes of Health (NIH)
The NIH does more than provide grant money to academics. They also conduct their own primary and meta research on important general health issues.
Center for Disease Control
The Center for Disease Control (CDC) is a branch of government dedicated to controlling diseases both within the US and abroad. If you’re interested in monitoring some of the most pressing epidemics (opioid crisis, AIDS, obesity, cancer, etc.) check out their website.
Food and Drug Administration
The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is responsible for ensuring that every food product, drug product and medical device used in the USA is safe for consumers. With more technological advances and discoveries comes a greater need for experts in the fields of science and medicine.
United States Armed Forces
Did you know the Armed Forces is responsible for some of the most cutting-edge research in pathology, medicine and environmental science? The US Armed Forces are divided into five branches that each have their own website and job board. Keep in mind that some jobs may require enlistment. To focus your job search on health science listings, we recommend contacting the HR staff.
The government has many more departments, divisions and institutes that need employees with a PhD. The link below provides a more extensive list of government agencies that might be seeking postdoctoral scholars.
Foundations and Research Centers
If you want to work somewhere that has an academic vibe but is focused on a specific disease or condition, consider working for a research center or foundation. Below is a link to government-funded cancer research centers: