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Of the tens of thousands of graduate students who enter PhD programs every year, more than half will pursue careers outside academics. The NIH estimates that only 15% of PhDs hold tenure-track positions. This may come as a surprise to graduate students, who often assume that the tenure track is the norm. The truth is that there are a plethora of other career paths available to PhDs.

So what do the other 85% of PhDs do? Many pursue their passion for research in industry or non-profit organizations, while others get involved in extensions of research through science communication or entrepreneurship. There are countless other career options for PhDs, and we strive to be a resource for students and postdocs considering their next bold step.

What is Beyond Academia?

Beyond Academia is a student-run organization with the goal of empowering graduate students and post-docs to expand their careers beyond the traditional academic track. It accomplishes this career education through an annual conference, as well as a series of workshops, tutorials, and lectures that connect current academics with those who have successfully made a transition to industry.

In 2012, a team of UC Berkeley graduate students noticed the growing interest in non-academic careers amongst their peers. While 36,000 Ph.D.s in science and engineering were obtained in the U.S. in 2011, only 3,000 faculty positions were created, a 12-1 ratio (Schillebeeckx et al, Nature Biotech 2013). With this came the realization that tens of thousands of industry-bound PhDs are underserved by a patchwork of incomplete solutions during their training in academia. Most of them are in need of education and support to be aware of their options and achieve their goals.

In response, the team launched the first annual Beyond Academia conference. Attendees were exposed to career education panels, workshops, and networking sessions with over 70 professionals, most of whom had made the transition from PhD to industry (a full list of speakers and panelists is available at www.beyondacademia.org/panel2015/). Career education topics ranged from science and social policy, to non-academic research and consulting, to booming industries such as technology, data analytics, and entrepreneurship. The conference quickly sold out to more than 200 PhD’s and was met with great praise. In 2014 and 2015, the organizers increased fundraising and increased the size of the event across two days. Beyond Academia sold out once more to over 300 PhD students.

Beyond Academia has gained country- and campus-wide recognition. The conferences were noted by national news outlets including The New York Times and the Chronicle of Higher Education as a model for educating PhDs about their career options. The organization has also been contacted by students from multiple universities, including Columbia, UC San Francisco, UC Santa Barbara, and UC Irvine, asking for support to host similar events. As Cathryn Carson, previously Associate Dean of Social Sciences and Interim Director of D-Lab, put it: “Its leaders’ energy and vision have earned it the admiration of engaged partners inside and outside academia. Beyond Academia has changed people’s lives.”

Our fifth annual conference will take place on March 2-3, 2017, and will again offer a diverse lineup of workshops and panelists. Whether you are starting to look for jobs or just exploring career options, Beyond Academia provides a supportive, diverse, and empowering environment. Come join us at this year’s conference and keep checking our blog for more up-to-date information!

We also offer a regular series of articles and resources from students, industry professionals, and PhDs who have successfully transitioned beyond academia. We want this blog to be an interactive venue. Want to hear about a specific career path or want to write a post for us? Drop us a line at info@beyondacademia.org.