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Other Pros and Cons of Academia vs. Industry

  1. Aug 24, 2016 #1

    ProfuselyQuarky

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    Hello PF! I was just wondering what the main pros and cons of working in both academia and industry are. I have read some things about this, but sometimes the texts just sounded biased.

    Personally, I have always wanted to go into academia, based on my limited amount of understanding, I’ve always perceived it to be an opportunity to study what I am truly interested in. I know that sounds naïve, and probably it is. However, a bunch of people that I know personally seem to be at the consensus that academia is not what it’s cut out to be. Their reasoning as follows:

    1) You have to work really, really hard.
    2) You’re paid less.
    3) The amount of freedom that you’re thinking about is nothing but a fantasy for the most part. Generally, you’ll still be told what to do, no matter how long you’ve worked.
    4) Sure, you might do the research you want eventually but then you’ll have to fight for a grant all the time.
    5) You are given very little feedback on your work and you often have to work alone (???)
    6) There are too many academic research scientists already.
    7) Going into academia will lead you nowhere. You’ll go to graduate school, do a postdoc eventually, and become a professor. The End.

    I’m totally okay with the first two points--my whole intent is to work hard/get my hands dirty and, as long as I can survive alright, I don’t really care about being paid a lot. As for the last five, I’m not sure what to think about those...

    3) Still being forced to do what I am told when I am not interested in any of it rather defeats the purpose of going into academia for me. Obviously, I expect to have to work with/for somebody at first. Nonetheless, the prospect of never being able to do what I want is disappointing.
    4) ...not thinking about this now...
    5) The idea of not receiving much feedback, advice, or criticism and having to work alone does not sound very pleasant. I’ve perceived pursing research as the exact opposite and wonder if this is true or not.
    6) Really? There are more scientists in academia rather than industry? How exactly would this negatively affect anyone who also wants to go in that direction?
    7) The idea of eventually becoming a teacher/professor of some sort is horrible to me. If I’ve spent years doing a postdoc, shouldn’t I at least have the option of doing something other than teach? Just my opinion.

    I am not interested in working in industry because I see the goals of a commercial company to be quite different from an academic institution--research for profit versus research for the sheer desire of learning something new that may (or may not) be of any practical benefit. I’m more interested in the latter. I have read and learned about various instances where a commercial company has stopped an incredibly great research project in order to devote more time to projects that would yield a greater profit for the company (I lack immediate references, sorry). I don’t like this at all.

    So is there anything else to be added to this/is wrong? What’s your opinion and what have you seen? Additionally, are my perceptions horribly incorrect and priorities reversed?

    Many thanks for taking the time to read this and feeding my curiosity! I’ve still got a long way to go, but am really interested in this, nevertheless. I greatly appreciate your input and effort.
     
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  3. Aug 24, 2016 #2

    phyzguy

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    One question to ask yourself is, "Why should someone pay you to do research into something with no practical benefit?" Historically universities have done this type of research, and professors spend part of their time teaching (thus justifying their paychecks) and part of it doing research. It sounds like you don't want to teach, and don't want to study anything with practical benefits, so who are you expecting to pay you? Perhaps your best bet is to make a killing in the stock market or some other field, and then you will be self-supporting and can do whatever you want.
     
  4. Aug 24, 2016 #3

    Dr Transport

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    there are multiple threads about this, long and short of it, if the planets align correctly you'll get an academic appointment. The APS has put out a study on this, for the most part a huge portion of the people who get PhD's end up in industry. Get used to the idea of having a boss who will tell you what to do and when to do it and you won't be as disappointed.
     
  5. Aug 24, 2016 #4

    ProfuselyQuarky

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    No I don't want to teach, but I do want to study something of practical benefit....just not in industry. Sorry for the misunderstanding.
    I have no problem with this! It's just that I want to eventually have an opportunity to do what I want. What are the chances?
     
  6. Aug 24, 2016 #5

    Dr Transport

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    My suggestion is to get your degree then start a business for yourself, that way you can support whom you want and do the types of work you desire. If you want to go after contract work supporting a national lab, that is great, just remember there is a bunch of overhead associated with that.
     
  7. Aug 24, 2016 #6

    ProfuselyQuarky

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    Thank you.

    However, ehem, I'm only 16 and just wanted to know if my perceptions of both academia and industry were accurate or not?
     
  8. Aug 24, 2016 #7

    Dr Transport

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    Aspirations for an academic career are great, don't get me wrong, but the chances of that are very slim at best. There are plenty of industries out there that do really good practical work, but you have to remember, even universities are profit making entities. Knowledge for knowledge sake is a great thing, but if someone doesn't think it worthwhile funding, your gonna be really hungry and poor.
     
  9. Aug 24, 2016 #8

    ProfuselyQuarky

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    Okay, thanks for your honest input. I appreciate it.
     
  10. Aug 24, 2016 #9

    jtbell

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    There's plenty of applied research in academia, but you'll still have to teach if you get one of those coveted professor slots at a research university. Probably two or three courses or sections per semester, alongside your research. (Full time teaching load without research is usually four courses or sections per semester.)

    There are also research positions at government labs, but there aren't as many of those as at universities.
     
  11. Aug 24, 2016 #10
    There are plenty of top-notch industrial labs out there, for example with IBM, Google, and Microsoft are three big names that come to mind. I mean, Microsoft and IBM do research on quantum computing. Will this likely turn a nice profit some day? Most definitely, however it's hardly a quick return on investment.

    It's too bad Bell Labs is no longer what it once was.
     
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