Is Industry against Academia?
I’ve been asking myself this question for some time now.
During my bachelor’s degree in Civil Engineering, I was very sure that I could go into academia and become a successful researcher.
I believe I invested myself in building a good foundation as well.
I started conducting research in the second year of my Bachelor’s degree and won some research funding. My hard work paid off and I was awarded the Fulbright Fellowship to pursue a post-graduate degree in the USA.
I went to Texas A&M University for Masters in the field of Civil Engineering. It is one of the best schools to get in both for the program syllabus and for research. My goals were to pursue a Masters with thesis option, bag a doctorate in Structural Engineering, and then chase an Assist Professor post in the Civil Engineering department.
Life happens when you make plans. It didn’t work out as it planned.
I learned a few months before MSc graduation that my advisor was leaving for another research institution. And I had applied to no other school for Ph.D.
I immediately started an industry job and decided to go with the flow for some time.
It took me about 6 months to adapt to an industry job and enjoy freedom from the pressures of research life. However, the euphoric feeling didn’t last very long; deep inside me was a researcher who was desperate to go for Ph.D.
My boss was willing to support me in pursuing a Ph.D. while I make up my work hours by working extra. This is not an offer one would come by often. I guess he was so supportive of me because he also had a Ph.D. and owned a company.
Now my plan is to get into part-time Ph.D. while I keep my full-time job. But why go through such heavy workload? Can’t I just enjoy my full-time industry job or just be a full-time student and stay in academia?
Here is why neither full-time doctoral studies or full-time industry position is suitable for me anymore:
To end up in industry, the sooner I start, the better. However, we are coming to a point where established firms prefer to hire candidates with Masters degrees.
I foresee a future where firms would prefer to hire PhDs. This is because by then, a lot of good candidates will have a Masters or two, or an MBA along with technical masters. Great technical knowledge and highest possible education can’t hurt one’s competition for good job positions.
On the other hand, if I decided to end up in academia, I may find a few things challenging.
I will have to be working in a field where one can publish many high-quality papers.
Now assuming you are working very hard and you had many high-quality publications, one’s best bet would be to stay in the same institution for a postdoc if one can be funded.
This is where the job hunt begins.
There are a few schools I would like to end up for a lifetime career but they’re only hiring an assist prof once in a few years. Of course there are new universities opening up all around but this has many technical and administrative difficulties.
Sometimes research institutes can be great places to work for. Most of the time they are conducting research for some industrial organization. Even though their requirements are research-based, there are ways to get into them after a Masters with thesis option. In the long run, they would be happy to support you for Ph.D., it also brings prestige to their institute.
New type of degrees
In engineering, they have a new degree called Philosophy of Engineering degree. Even though it is not very popular yet, it is a Philosophy degree but to get the degree it is a requirement to get a year or 2 of industry job training. Even though I have not come across anyone with such degree or a job posting but this can soon take place.
This why I am trying to enjoy my full-time industry job and part-time research.
If there’s anything I can support you with on this topic feel free to contact me on Twitter @ETappavuravther. If you are interested in this topic, I am posting biweekly posts on my blog, feel free to contact me to contribute.
Elif currently works as a Structural Engineer in an industry job. Besides her full-time job, she is conducting research part-time on steel structures and concrete structures under dynamic loading.
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