Dropping my PhD studies to join industry

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rafaelbarragan
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Hello all. I have recently completed my second year of PhD studies in the field of Optics and Photonics and I have decided to drop out of my program. I have lost passion for my project and field and would like to study renewable technologies (solar cells,batteries, fusion...) instead, I still like research and enjoy being a scientist but I dont think completing the project is useful for me if I wont be working in this particular field. For this reason I would still like to pursue a PhD in the future but I would like to explore the field beforehand so I dont end up in the same situation in the next 2 years. I would like to find a research job in industry and get experience and I wanted to ask you for advice in making this change.

Do you recommend any employers in Europe (Berlin particularly)? Do you have advice for applying to jobs where I will be competing with PhDs for the same position? Do you recommend I get further qualifications/internships (I would rather not have to spend more money and time in education if possible)?

Have you had to negotiate a period of time with your institution that you have to spend before you can leave to finish tasks/ train other students? Advice for justifying my change of heart to employers?

Thank you very much for reading this far :)
 
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  • #2
Welcome to PF. :smile:

rafaelbarragan said:
Do you recommend any employers in Europe (Berlin particularly)? Do you have advice for applying to jobs where I will be competing with PhDs for the same position? Do you recommend I get further qualifications/internships (I would rather not have to spend more money and time in education if possible)?

Have you had to negotiate a period of time with your institution that you have to spend before you can leave to finish tasks/ train other students? Advice for justifying my change of heart to employers?
Well, since you are asking for advice for how to handle telling your university and how to approach prospective employers, do you think it's wise to use your real name as your username?
 
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  • #3
berkeman said:
Welcome to PF. :smile:Well, since you are asking for advice for how to handle telling your university and how to approach prospective employers, do you think it's wise to use your real name as your username?
that is not my real name ;)
 
  • #4
rafaelbarragan said:
that is not my real name ;)

1694105796319.png

https://getyarn.io/yarn-clip/91188d86-c84d-4ed4-8d97-f7bdf2f7d3e9/gif
 
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  • #5
rafaelbarragan said:
I have recently completed my second year of PhD studies in the field of Optics and Photonics and I have decided to drop out of my program. I have lost passion for my project and field and would like to study renewable technologies (solar cells,batteries, fusion...) instead, I still like research and enjoy being a scientist
The following is just my opinion, and I would certainly like to hear from others...

Most "industry" research positions are filled by PhDs. They have demonstrated research skills. Employees with bachelor's or master's degrees can do valuable interesting work but will almost always be under the direction of someone else. Keep in mind that most industry companies are in business to make money, which means doing things their customers pay them to do. So there is a large amount of "grunt" work and a small amount of research into new products.

"solar cells, batteries, fusion..." you do not reveal your pre-PhD candidacy background, but presumably you have undergrad and (?) masters in physics. What in your background supports working in any of these (disparate) areas? You should think that through and then stress that background when talking to prospective employers in those areas.

My advice would be to carefully consider what you would be giving up by not completing your current PhD.
 
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  • #6
I think you should start by figuring out how much time you need to finish, and how much time you need to find a job you want. Then subtract the two - I think most people would adopt a different strategy if this is 3 days or 3 years,

Even in a non-research industrial position, a PhD has value: it shows you can take on a non-trivial project, learn whaty you need to, successfully execute it, and write it up. These are valuable skills even outside of research.
 
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  • #7
rafaelbarragan said:
Do you have advice for applying to jobs where I will be competing with PhDs for the same position?
So you want a Ph.D. position in a field outside the area you did not get a Ph.D. in. This is not a winning strategy. You need to reset your expectations to an job that requires an undergraduate degree.
 
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  • #8
gmax137 said:
The following is just my opinion, and I would certainly like to hear from others...

Most "industry" research positions are filled by PhDs. They have demonstrated research skills. Employees with bachelor's or master's degrees can do valuable interesting work but will almost always be under the direction of someone else. Keep in mind that most industry companies are in business to make money, which means doing things their customers pay them to do. So there is a large amount of "grunt" work and a small amount of research into new products.

"solar cells, batteries, fusion..." you do not reveal your pre-PhD candidacy background, but presumably you have undergrad and (?) masters in physics. What in your background supports working in any of these (disparate) areas? You should think that through and then stress that background when talking to prospective employers in those areas.

My advice would be to carefully consider what you would be giving up by not completing your current PhD.
Yes, I have a masters and an undergrad in physics. There are techniques common to solar cell research and mine and I have partaken in projects and courses during my masters related to fusion.

My thinking is that if I do not wish to continue in the field after graduating the qualification wont be worth that much.
 
  • #9
Vanadium 50 said:
I think you should start by figuring out how much time you need to finish, and how much time you need to find a job you want. Then subtract the two - I think most people would adopt a different strategy if this is 3 days or 3 years,

Even in a non-research industrial position, a PhD has value: it shows you can take on a non-trivial project, learn whaty you need to, successfully execute it, and write it up. These are valuable skills even outside of research.
I probably need 2 years to complete, while hopefully looking for a job might be max half a year? I agree on the versatility of a PhD, but I would rather have it on a field that I know I intend to stay in even if that takes me longer to achieve
 
  • #10
Frabjous said:
So you want a Ph.D. position in a field outside the area you did not get a Ph.D. in. This is not a winning strategy. You need to reset your expectations to an job that requires an undergraduate degree.
I know I wont be able to access postdoc jobs and leadership jobs. I will be applying to jobs that require a masters degree, to which some PhDs will apply too. Im not planning on applying to jobs unrelated to field I have not studied in my masters either.
 
  • #11
Frabjous said:
So you want a Ph.D. position in a field outside the area you did not get a Ph.D. in. This is not a winning strategy. You need to reset your expectations to an job that requires an undergraduate degree.
@Frabjous, I strongly disagree with your advice to the OP. There are plenty of PhD graduates in physics and other STEM areas (if not the majority of them) who end up finding positions in areas outside of their immediate area of research.

Just as an example, plenty of PhD physics graduates (often in disparate areas of physics, from theoretical high-energy physics, to statistical physics, to astrophysics, etc.) end up working in the area of data science. Data science is not a branch of physics, and for most data science positions, an undergraduate degree alone is not sufficient to be hired.
rafaelbarragan said:
I probably need 2 years to complete, while hopefully looking for a job might be max half a year? I agree on the versatility of a PhD, but I would rather have it on a field that I know I intend to stay in even if that takes me longer to achieve
@rafaelbarragan, in your original post, you had stated that you are a PhD student researching in Optics/Photonics, and have expressed interest in working in renewable technologies. These two broad areas are not mutually exclusive. For example, consider this online article below.

https://spie.org/news/photonics-for...-photovoltaics-can-help-save-our-planet?SSO=1

From skimming the above article, I could imagine that the skills you gain from your Optics/Photonics PhD could lend itself to your being able to apply them in companies developing renewable technologies.

So I would strongly suggest you finish your PhD first (since you are looking at only around 2 years to complete it) and then apply for such positions. Just my 2 cents worth.
 
  • #12
StatGuy2000 said:
@Frabjous, I strongly disagree with your advice to the OP. There are plenty of PhD graduates in physics and other STEM areas (if not the majority of them) who end up finding positions in areas outside of their immediate area of research.
I stand by my post. A non-Ph.D. from a different field competing with Ph.D.’s for a first job in the Ph.D.’s field does not have a high probability of success.

The OP has clarified their stance since my post.
 
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