Careers for PhDs Outside Academia

Getting a PhD can enrich your mind, but what about your bank account? The Bureau of Labor Statistics reported a 2009 median weekly wage of $1,532 for PhD holders, but despite this high figure, PhD candidates are rightly worried about the future. University jobs for PhDs are becoming scarce. The Los Angeles Times reports that between 2007-2009, openings for PhDs in math departments dropped 40 percent, while between 2008 and 2010, there was a 27.5 percent decrease in humanities department jobs listed by the Modern Language Association.

5 Careers for PhDs Outside of Academia

Despite these discouraging statistics, a PhD is still a good investment, because it is a respected credential beyond the university walls. There are many great careers for PhDs outside academia, including the five below.

1. Pharmaceutical Researcher

Scientific research is the career with the greatest number of advanced degree holders in the workforce, and demand for researchers with PhDs is expected to remain high. People with doctorates in life sciences, as well as medical doctors, have excellent prospects for employment in the pharmaceutical industry, as the aging population means that researchers who develop and improve drugs should be especially sought-after. The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports a 2009 mean annual wage of $91,720 for medical scientists working in pharmaceutical industry.

2. Lobbyist

Many political science, public policy, and economics PhDs find work with government agencies or as lobbyists for private sector businesses. Drawing on their training in statistical analysis and knowledge of the political process, they study pressing issues and present their findings to lawmakers. They influence policy and help shape political platforms. Earnings for health care, energy and financial services lobbyists in Washington, DC was as high as $177,000 in 2009, Washington, DC news source The Hill reports.

3. Biotech Careers

Biology and other life science PhDs are joining the biotechnology industry. Biotech companies harness biological processes to create drugs, improve agricultural production, implement greener industrial practices, and innovate many other products and applications. It is a booming field, driving a 21 percent growth rate for biological science jobs through 2018. In Florida, where biotech jobs increased 18 percent between 2001-2008, the average wage for the industry is $55,264, and PhDs can expect to out-earn this average, according to the Palm Beach Post.

4. Corporate Communications Manager/Director

Manager or director of corporate communications are great jobs for English PhDs. Communications directors oversee teams that conceive, write, and edit newsletters, reports, press releases, Web content and other material distributed within a company and/or between a company and its clients/the media. As the dependence on Search Engine Optimization grows, so does the need to have people around who are good with words. The average salary in 2009 was $126,000, according to data from Spring Associates, Inc.

5. Market Researcher

Market researchers conduct studies to gauge how consumers think and act, so psychology or social science PhDs apply their expertise in this field. By collecting and analyzing data to understand the psychology and behavior of consumers, market researchers help companies create and sell useful products. Job growth is expected to be especially robust for those with advanced degrees, including PhDs. The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports a median annual wage of $61,580 in 2009.

There are also bountiful jobs for PhDs in non-profit organizations, think tanks, and as independent contractors or consultants. So don't let the daunting odds of becoming a professor stop you from getting a doctoral degree. There are plenty of careers for PhDs outside academia that are rewarding and, yes, enriching.



Refine School Matches
Hide filters
  • SUBJECT Clear All

    See More


    See More



    Please enter valid US or Canada Zip.

Searching Searching ...

Matching School Ads
  • Online Bachelor's programs include Healthcare Management, Public Health, IT, Psychology, BBA & Criminal Justice
  • Dedicated to delivering quality education and personalized attention to students since 1899
  • Provide a range of campus experiences and services online including advising, tutoring, student community, and career services
  • Give students and alumni access to career assistants who help with resumes, cover letters, job hunting, and more.
Good for Working Adults
  • Online Courses
  • Flexible Scheduling
  • Financial Aid
  • Transferable Credits

About Capella University

An accredited online university, Capella University offers bachelor’s, master’s/MBA, doctoral, and certificate programs designed to take you to the forefront of your profession. Our competency-based curriculum delivers both foundational knowledge and real-world skills, so that what you’re learning in your courses is immediately applicable to your career goals.

  • Online Courses
  • Financial Aid
  • Transferable Credits

Featured Schools