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Hey everyone,

I'm having a little dilemma about whether to enroll in a PhD program or not. In some ways I believe I must and in other ways I am wondering if I really need to do it. It's just such a long road that I don't want to waste time on if I don't need to. So here is my background:

  • I have a BS in chemistry from a very good public US university. I performed undergraduate research there for about 1.5 years but didn't really accomplish anything significant (was just to get exposed).
  • After my junior year, I did a summer research fellowship at Memorial Sloan Kettering
    • 3rd author on a paper about polymeric nanoparticles for kidney diseases
  • Graduated in May 2015 and received a Fulbright Fellowship to use targeted nanoparticles to deliver gene therapy to different hematological malignancies.
    • So far I have 2 publications from this:
      • small contribution on a review of delivery strategies of siRNA to hematological malignancies
      • first author on a commentary on a siRNA aptamer study to modulate T cell function
      • I will hopefully have/be working on another publication on my own work when I am leaving.
  • I was accepted to Weill Cornell pharmacology program (fall 2016) but deferred for a year to continue doing my Fulbright project for some more time
  • So now I am supposed to start PhD in August 2017

My interests/career goals:

  • I really enjoy what I am working on, and would like to stay involved with and of the following: nanomedicine, targeted therapy, immunotherapy, gene therapy, delivery strategies
  • I don't want to go into academia
  • I am interested in research but it has to be at a very applied level within therapy (preferably in cancer)
    • However, I don't want to work in a lab forever
  • I believe I want to go into industry but not in a typical fashion... managing a biotech startup or maybe biotech venture capital sound appealing to me.

What I want advice on:

  • Given my experience and prospective career path, is a PhD just a rite of passage I must go through? Or should I find a job instead and work my way towards what I would like to be in? 
    • Due to the novel nature of the subjects I have interest in, I have a feeling that I must do a PhD to be qualified (nanomedicine, gene therapy, immunomodulation)
  • If the school I am supposed to attend has a few researchers that are not doing exactly what I want to do but are related and I would accept work with, should I settle for one of these? Or should I not pursue the PhD if I don't find someone who matches exactly what I want?
  • What kind of jobs can I get with this experience? I am not really sure because all I have is a bachelor's degree but I have been performing research at the level of graduate students for quite some time now.

Thanks in advance for all the help.

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Either way, I'm sure you would move up quickly once you got into a position. You seem to have the knowledge and drive to accomplish a lot once you get that first job.

However, it can be extremely difficult to get an entry-level position in those types of industry jobs without a graduate degree. Have you looked into masters programs? Research-based ones? Have you tried applying for any of these jobs? Or reaching out to people in the industry to find out if there are positions as someone with a bachelors?

Unfortunately, as you stated, people may not see you as an expert in any of those areas without a graduate degree. I hate to advocate for doing a PhD if you don't want one, but you are obviously committed to research and the PhD is important for your career, so it's not like you should be advised against it just because you want to go into academia.

Your situation sounds quite similar to mine (though you have fancy fellowships and I don't). I want to go into industry, but I want to do research, and then move on to a more managerial position. I need a graduate degree to break into the field, even though I felt ready (and had been doing research for three years, with 1 pub and a few more on the way) before I started graduate school. I knew, even if other people didn't agree, that grad school was right for me. Even though I don't want to go into academia. So I'm using a lot of time in grad school to work on internships and things that advance my career goals, instead of just focusing on academic research. However, it is a big time commitment and you do have to be very sure you want it.

In conclusion, I would do more research to find out if there is any way to break into this field with what you have now. Get out there and use all the connections you have to find other connections. I spoke to a lot of people in industry, but they were unfortunately not looking at things from the same perspective, and they didn't seem to know what the labour market is like nowadays as far as how much education you need. But they can still be helpful. Best of luck!

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Do the PhD it's only 4 years it's not that long.

You're just young so you think 4 years is a long time. It goes by very quickly.

Without a PhD you won't have the training or credentials to be move up in the workplace. It could happen but would be rare. 

You have a long life ahead, 4 years is a short period.

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