Research careers in industry

Posted in: Commercial Awareness, For PhDs, Sector Insight, Subject Related Careers

As how to move into industry is a very common topic in researcher career discussions, I wanted to outline some of the key things to think about, pull together resources to help you explore industry careers and give you some quick tips on ways how to prepare for a move to industry.

Moving to industry is an entirely realistic option for doctoral and postdoctoral researchers. Particularly if the company is closely related to your research, you will be sought after for your technical skills and knowledge, and a PhD may be needed, particularly to progress to higher levels within the company. If you have a PhD you may be able to start at ‘senior scientist’ level and look at roles that require experience – your PhD or postdoc may count as precisely that. Read job descriptions carefully and don’t be put off or confused by a job title.

First things first: it’s crucial to be aware of the wide variety of organisations that make up ‘industry’ so you can weigh up which type of environment would work best for you. A wide variety of organisations engage in scientific research, from large scale multinationals to contract research organisations to small high tech startups and biotech firms. R&D takes place in a wide range of settings, including government departments, hospitals, research institutes and charities. R&D roles exist in both the public and private sectors and there is scope to pursue a truly international career.
Careers in Scientific Analysis and R&D – Careers Service helpsheet with information roles in R&D and links to professional bodies and job vacancy sites.

University of Cambridge Careers Service information for postdocs – good advice on questions to ask yourself when preparing for a career industry, advice on industry CVs and information on roles beyond R&D.

Nature podcast on how to select your first role in industry – great advice including considering different types of organisations that work in industry and some of the cultural differences. Research in industry is more focussed on specific goals and projects can be shorter term and may be pulled if no longer commercially viable. Also busts a few common myths – roles in industry may be more secure but not in every case, and taking a short term role may be a way to build experience

Prospects profiles – research scientist (life sciences), research scientist (physical sciences) research scientist (maths)

So what do I do now?

- Use the resources above to explore options within industry
- Connect with people already working in industry. You might have industrial partners or sponsors as part of your research project. Invite them for a coffee and ask them how they got into their current role, what they do day-to-day and what’s happening in their sector. Supervisors and other academics can be a great source of industry contacts – find out which companies your department or research group has links with. You can use Bath Connection and LinkedIn to connect with Bath alumni – this video explains how. Scientific Learned Societies are great sources of networks and careers information – our web pages for researchers have a list of these. Industry professional bodies such as the Association for the British Pharmaceutical industry are useful too.

- Try to find meetings, conferences and events that bring together people from industry and academia.

- Keep up to date with what’s happening in companies and sectors that interest you. Follow companies on LinkedIn, read their websites and annual reports. Use the IBIS database to find information on sectors that interest you.

- Understand how businesses operate and some of the cultural differences between industry and academia. Check out the podcast above and also make use of contacts to find out how industry works. Getting involved in enterprise activities and research commercialisation is another great way to showcase commercial awareness.

- Employers outside of academia sometimes (not always correctly!) hold the view that academic researchers work alone and lack teamworking skills. Highlight the ways you’ve worked with your own and other research groups; examples of interdisciplinary working and working with external partners are great. If you do work on your own quite a bit in your research, find other ways to evidence team-working skills, such as getting involved in societies and Departmental Committees, and group-based projects such as I-Keep and the Vertically integrated Projects. Show you can work on shorter-term projects as well as longer ones.

- Reformulate your CV for industry. This video has guidance on CVs for outside of academia. Industry CVs should be no more than 2 pages and emphasise your key technical and transferable skills, with less emphasis on academic achievements such as full lists of publications and academic prizes.

Where do I look for jobs in industry?

Industrial jobs will be advertised in some of the main science publications such as Nature, New Scientist, Science Careers and Chemistry World. For engineering jobs in industry, try Gradcracker or The Engineer. For jobs in start-ups, try
If you’re interested in staying close to your current research area, often the best advice is to identify companies you would like to work for. Use the company search function on LinkedIn, browse organisations in Myfuture and use the library databases to generate lists of companies to approach.
Specialist recruitment agencies often have connections with smaller companies so are worth checking out; here’s a list. Smaller R&D labs and tech firms are often clustered on science parks; the UK Science Park Association has a list of these, and the Association of Industrial Research Trading Organisations is worth checking out too.
Finally, here’s a couple of articles on finding smaller companies; the advice is focussed on biosciences but applies to other fields too:
Less is more …. – BioScience Careers
10 ways to find your next job – BioScience Careers

Posted in: Commercial Awareness, For PhDs, Sector Insight, Subject Related Careers


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