Medical Biophysics Graduate Student Association


Updates, opinion pieces, and news related to the department

The Inevitable Career Search


A lot of my early blogs will probably be related to this topic - that's because it has been on my mind a lot lately (shocking I know). I hope to be able to share with you some of what I have learned during my current career search. My main focus will be on jobs outside of the academic realm because that's where my own interests lie. Although, I am not opposed to the idea of doing a little research regarding the academic job search if it is what some of you want (leave me a message or a comment). Graduate students are extremely busy doing experiments, attending conferences or helping their supervisor by getting those last few experiments completed for a grant proposal due tomorrow. Typically thinking about our eventual career is not really a priority and we put reflecting about it off.  I would be the first person to admit to doing this but I think it is a mistake. Looking back, the sooner you address this question the better (unless you are 100% that academia is for that is).

So I guess the first pertinent question to ask would be, "What kind of careers are there for life scientist/physicist outside academia?" Let me give you a few examples:

1. Patent lawyer/Patent agent - These experts tend to have advanced degrees in a variety of disciplines and deal with intellectual property (IP). Patent lawyers draft patents (which requires technical know-how and expertise), prosecute others infringing upon their company's patents, preparing licensing and confidentiality agreements and manage an intellectual property portfolios. Patent agents do all of these things as well except they are unable to litigate in court. Becoming a patent lawyer requires law school while a patent agent just needs to pass a qualifying examination relating to patent law and practice (and already be a patent agent trainee- by applying to be one at a law firm).

Interested? Here are some links to get you started: - Canadian intellectual property office - A law firm with a page describing how to become a patent agent - Listing of IP firms in Canada - "Day in the life" of an American patent lawyer - A series of blogs about a career in patent law

2. Consultant/Management Consultant - A consultant is a broad term, but it generally just means an expert in a particular field that someone has hired to give a second opinion. could start your own "consulting" business right now and give people advice on how to conduct particular experiments. One example of a relevant consulting field would be healthcare consulting - giving hospitals and other institutions advice on improving their services. The other type of consulting I'll mention here is management consulting - which is a little better defined (in my mind anyway). Management consulting firms can have a variety of focus areas including strategy, operations or human resources. One thing they all have in common? They give companies management advice.

Example: A client wants to know why they've been losing 10% profit per year for the last 2 years. As a management consultant - your job (as part of a team) would be to figure out why (and soon!) this is happening and give recommendations on how to fix (or alleviate the problem).

Depending on the firm and project that you are working on there can be extensive travel required for this job (50%+). Management consultants are hired from all walks of life and there has been a recent push by some of the firms to hire Ph.D. and Master's students for their analytical minds. Typically successful candidates will go on to do MBAs. I recently completed an interview at one of the firms, but unfortunately didn't land the job. If you have any questions about the process I'd be happy to discuss it with you.

Interested? Here are some links: - management consulting blog - lots of useful information, day in the life and resume crafting - A more detailed day in the life (from the perspective of an advanced degree holder) - Boston Consulting Group website (top 3 firm) - Mckinsey and Company (top 3 firm) - Bain and Company (top 3 firm)

3.  Sales representative/Account manager - I'm sure you've met at least one of these people during your tenure as a graduate student. Generally sales representatives only require a bachelor's degree, however, having an advanced degree could set you apart from the competition. The job entails actively pursuing medical professionals or researchers to grow sales of the company's products and maintain and inform current customers of new developments (whether they be medical drugs or research tools). They also organize product shows and are involved in the marketing of the goods they sell.

Interested? more links! - "So you want to get into pharmaceutical sales...": Job hunting and resume advice etc. - Example account manager job posting

These 3 opportunities are but a few of the many options out there, stay tuned for future installments! Have any relevant interesting careers you've discovered? Let me know!


P.s. Follow me on twitter

Careers, BlogCaleD