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R&D work without PhD-is it possible?

  1. Jan 27, 2012 #1
    Hi everybody,

    I have an engineering degree in Instrumentation&Controls and I worked on engineering positions in my country(Eastern Europe) in oil&gas industry for several years.Those were mainly field(on site) jobs but I'm interested in R&D work.I've had enough of maintenance and fixing,now I wanna create and develop electronic,measuring and controls equipment by myself.I constantly develop myself in electronics,programming,physics,maths,mechanics and some other disciplines making devices and experiments,reading special books and journals.The thing is that there are no any relevant interesting R&D positions in my country.

    I searched a lot through the internet and I'm ready to relocate anywhere on the globe and start from the initial research position but all R&D positions require previous R&D experience(which I don't have) or at least Ph.D(which I don't have,either).I think there are not so many chances for the guy like me(without Ph.D and research experience,except the study at the university) to be hired in R&D department of some company in the US or other English-speaking country.So,I need your advice-should I get Ph.D(I'm thinking of Ph.D in Electrical Engineering&Electronics in the US or,perhaps,in Applied Physics) or there's a chance to find an interesting R&D position without Ph.D just with a background and experience that I have nowadays?Then,maybe,you could advise some R&D companies to apply for?

    Anyone who pays attention to that and finds time to anwser is highly appreciated.
  2. jcsd
  3. Jan 27, 2012 #2
    It is possible to get an R&D position without having a PhD. But as you already remarked yourself, most R&D vacancies ask for a candidate with a PhD, sometimes adding 'or equivalent/relevant/xx years working experience'. I now work for a company where they will not even consider you if you don't have a PhD. I will be moving to a new company soon and there are a couple of people there in the R&D department that do not have a PhD. It is possible to start at a company and gain enough experience over the years to move to the R&D department.

    On the other hand, if you like R&D then you will probably also like doing a PhD.
  4. Jan 27, 2012 #3
    bigfooted,thanks for your response.Well,from that I can conclude that finding a such position is theoretically possible but practically unlikely...
  5. Jan 27, 2012 #4
    Yes,I will probably.But the thing that makes me confused is that getting Ph.D is quite a long process(>=5-6 years,as I know) and living on a small stipend for a family during 6 years is not so easy,I guess.That's why I'm looking for alternative ways to R&D,if possible.
  6. Jan 27, 2012 #5


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    Another plan would be first to move into engineering design, where your practical experience with the products would count positively on your job applications and a PhD isn't essential. In a big company you could then move "diagonally up" into R&D after a few years, or you might find that design work was creative enough to satsify you anyway. Nobody is going to limit how creative you are, provided you produce stuff that actually works!

    I don't know about the oil and gas industry but that would work as a career path in aerospace.
  7. Jan 27, 2012 #6
    I would say that it is definitely possible to get a job doing R&D without a Ph.D. However, at least in the US, most jobs require a minimum of an M.S. to do "real" design work. I'd say that at the minimum you do need a graduate degree in the engineering world. Also, as you said, most jobs request a Ph.D. for research work. If you really want to break into the field I cannot suggest going to professional conferences in your area and networking enough. Eat lunch with a random group of people and you'd be surprised how many research jobs are available. This is just my $0.02 but I've seen so many people hired this way and it is really easy if you just be calm, and friendly.

    Good luck.
  8. Jan 27, 2012 #7
    I am currently doing my PhD, so I'm not quite in the job-seeking position yet, but here's my two cents:

    since you are doing research work on your own anyway, why not try and publish your work in a scientific journal? I believe that a few publications will go a long way towards convincing your potential employers that you are R&D material. I would welcome the professionals to correct my line of reasoning if it's not in the right track :smile:
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