Hurdles to the Non-Research Career

At BenchFly, we love science.  In fact, our mission is to make science a better career for current and future generations of researchers.  Within the larger profession, careers in science may fall into one of two categories, non-research or research-oriented, although the distinction between the two is not always black or white.  While those in non-research careers may not physically stand at the bench, their roles in the research process are often just as important.  Therefore, as a profession, it is to our advantage to make sure that the best and brightest scientific minds stay in the field in some capacity- whether in a non-research or research capacity.

Many of us begin our scientific careers in research.  However, for personal and/or professional reasons some of us may look to move beyond the bench after completing our undergraduate, graduate or postdoctoral work.  As MidSci commented in a recent discussion about Escape Velocity: Non-research Oriented Careers on the BenchFly Facebook page, many scientists find themselves asking “Once I get a degree, what can I do with it?”

As it turns out, identifying available non-research career options in only one of many challenges a scientist faces when leaving the lab.  In fact, the logistical (“How am I going to pay the bills?!”) and emotional (“Will I lose my identity as a scientist?”) hurdles facing a researcher can be overwhelming and may prevent them from pursuing their true passion. Supporting the transition would benefit the individuals looking to move to non-research careers as well as the research their new jobs would likely support.

In a recent conversation with friend and alternative science careers evangelist Stephanie Huang, we compiled a list of the most common struggles facing scientists in their transition to a non-research career.  Whether you’ve made the move, are considering it, or can simply imagine what it would be like, what do you think are the most difficult aspects?

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What are the hardest parts of leaving the bench? (Select 5)

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Any other hurdles from your own experience that you’d like to add?

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6 comments so far. Join The Discussion

  1. jeff

    wrote on August 23, 2010 at 7:01 pm

    Although I'm still in research, when I left academia I remember feeling like I was disappointing my family since they had been telling people for years that I was going to be a professor.

  2. Nola Caine

    wrote on August 25, 2010 at 12:32 pm

    I've been having trouble figuring out how to spend all the money I'm making. Seriously. I just got my Social Security statement and seeing my income jump from my research years to my science policy years was very gratifying.

  3. Ed Chait

    wrote on August 25, 2010 at 2:17 pm

    It's time to realize that Research in the traditional sense is the "alternative" career. Being a science entrepreneur, patent attorney, salesman, CEO etc. are the mainstream careers with a science background. Go where a Ph.D. can make $200K plus instead of groveling for the next post-doc or a minor academic appointment with an insecure future.

  4. The 4 Steps to Finding Your Passion | BenchFly Blog

    wrote on November 22, 2010 at 5:58 pm

    […] whopping 52% of you responded at the end of Hurdles to a Non-Research Career that one of the hardest things about leaving the bench was finding your passion. I completely […]

  5. josh

    wrote on March 15, 2013 at 12:58 am

    That is a non-informative and extremely arrogant statement. Instead of boasting about your superior income level, can you share your information about your transition and/or give a higher level feedback than simply I make more money? This should be a constructive discussion rather than a bragging contest.

  6. ruckerz

    wrote on June 11, 2013 at 2:01 pm

    I'd argue though that an entrepreneur, patent attorney, salesman, and CEO are all insecure futures.

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