With so many options for PhD scientists these days, it is easy to feel like taking certain career paths means you won’t be “using your PhD”.
As anyone who gets their Doctorate comes to realize, there are many ways it will be used throughout life.
Before starting graduate school, I had a BS in chemistry and had logged a number of hours in the lab, but I had limited exposure to the world beyond my fellow scientists. I had presented my research at college symposiums, and thrived on explaining my experiments to other members of the scientific community.
Upon entering graduate school, I was excited to give my first presentation on my research, after which, I was quickly, yet constructively, criticized that it was too technical. Throughout my six years of graduate school which involved presenting data every other month, I became increasingly skilled at keeping an audience interested in scientific data. I was having a lot of fun drumming up creative ways of presenting data!
In addition to the public speaking portion and holding audience interest, presentation of data involved extensive literature research, gleaning relevant data from the work of others, and drawing all information together in coherent conclusions. Knowing what keywords to search for in order to find the correct references for a particular subjects, as well as knowing how to integrate data and information from various sources, are invaluable skills to have. The confidence that came along with learning these skills quickly translated to other areas of my career.
Now, as a regulatory writer, I use the skills I learned while obtaining my PhD every day. Working for a healthcare company, the science background is invaluable; however, so is the talent of quickly interpreting data from those in the lab coats, and turning it around into a clear and presentable format. While I’m not using my PhD in the technical sense by working in the lab, I can easily look at a technical report or white paper and immediately glean the important facts from it and write it in a manner for a large audience to receive, FDA being that large audience at times.
When I mention PhD in Chemistry to people, the assumption is often that my closet consists of a row of perfectly pressed lab coats, and that I spend my spare time in my basement laboratory conducting original experiments. Believe it or not, the last time I wore a lab coat was a few Halloweens ago.
The reality is, although I sit at a desk and in meetings all day, I am using my PhD every day in a manner that helps produce life-saving products!