Why Ph.D. Students Need Career Counseling 

By on October 30th, 2020

When it comes to career guidance and counseling, age, or profession cannot be a limitation. It's not only the students who've written board exams feeling anxious about their next move, but Ph.D. scholars can also be as clueless and in need of guidance! One can never expect the resilience one will need to get through the whole process.

While academia is still the preferable career path for most Ph.D. graduates, most of us are aware that it can be hard to land our dream faculty positions. 

The following blog allows me to demonstrate how crucial career counseling can be at various stages of one's Ph. D. journey.

Stage 1: Before beginning the program

'To Ph.D. or Not to Ph.D.' is probably the most critical question you are ever going to ask yourself. Firstly, make sure your intentions are clear, and you are honest about your motivation to pursue a Ph.D. If the idea of getting to write a "Dr." before your name seems pretty cool and you've already qualified for the National Eligibility Test (NET), so you think why not, I suggest you pause and reflect. It's important to ask yourself what you plan to accomplish with this degree as a Ph.D. is not a quintessential requirement to pursue a career in science.

Are you prepared to be short of money for three to six years while your friends from school get promoted and settle down in life? Research life can be isolating and requires tons of patience and resilience. 

Career counseling at this stage will significantly help students assess what their ultimate career goals and life expectations are and whether a Ph.D. is worth it.

Stage 2: During the Ph.D. program

Pursuing a Ph.D. is incredibly long and requires resilience, unlike other degree courses, and therefore students usually experience phases of motivation dips where they start to feel existential and lost.

Guidance at this stage (especially in terms of exploring alternate career options) can also help build and expand the network. It will come in handy when looking for jobs after one is done with their degree and not come off as 'overqualified and inexperienced' at the same time. 

Stage 3: After completing the Ph.D.

Welcome to the stage where career counseling would help most. Contrary to popular belief, transitioning to a postdoc is not the only career option available. However, it is not always obvious how the skill set acquired during the pursuit of a Ph.D. directly translates to a specific industry or various career skills. An intervention at this stage can help clarify the way forward as per one's skills and interests.

Lastly, allow me to introduce a few possible careers options available to students after finishing a degree in sciences: 

  • Academia
  • Industry
  • Policy
  • Medical Liason
  • Freelance science communication writing
  • Medical communications
  • Consulting with Biotech 
  • Intellectual Property and Patent Law
  • Non-Profit organizations in fields of grant-making, public health, education, advocacy, etc.

Therefore, with the career counseling guidance growing in India and different from what it was a decade ago, it is also essential to understand the potential it holds beyond K-12 education. Higher education students currently need guidance and support since they didn't receive it when they were in high school.

Mansi Gautam

PhD Scholar at CSIR- Institute of Genomics & Integrated Biology

New Delhi