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I am currently a masters student that is due to finish early next year. I have a scholarship which covers costs and pays me a modest wage up until and including PhD. I would like to do my PhD but I am concerned about the job opportunities that will be available to me after graduating due to my age and skill set. I would be in my mid 30's when graduating and would like to work in a non academic, non laboratory environment after graduating. At some time later in life I would like to return to academia but at least after graduating I would prefer to not do so. How are somewhat older PhD's perceived by employers outside of academia ? Do they have a harder time being employed ? I have read PhD's are often considered over qualified or to focused in their knowledge making them not as desirable to employers, is this still the case ?

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    "Older PhD" is very misleading in your title! :) – paul garrett Jun 20 '18 at 0:21
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    Mid 30s is not all that old for finishing a PhD... – Flyto Jun 20 '18 at 9:08
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Age here matters much less than the perceived seniority a PhD will grant you.

I graduated at the age you plan to, and have had a straightforward time finding employment opportunities. Certainly, at all ages, having a PhD limits some entry level opportunities, as you are seen as better fitting 'senior' tracks. For these, you may not have sufficient 'real world' experience. If you have interest in rapidly transitioning from individual contributor role to management, this may not be a bad thing at all. The key, for me, has been being open with employers and flexible about role.

Notably, this may somewhat depend on the culture in your field.

  • This is one of the things I fear, even though I believe I a have a fairly well rounded skill set spending 7 years as a student makes me feel like I will lack the skills to transition smoothly into a role in industry. I have been trying to offset this as much as possible by doing internships at companies and trying to find any type of part time work in my field hoping that this will not only show drive and commitment but also will fill in some of those gaps in "real world" experience. Although getting internships hasn't been as difficult finding part time work has proven difficult – dmnte Jun 20 '18 at 1:55
  • @dmnte: Nobody's skill set is ever "fully rounded"; even postdocs and professors continue to learn and train throughout their careers! – aeismail Jun 20 '18 at 22:35
  • You'll be fine. A PhD is actually excellent preparation for success in the workplace, IMHO. – Industrademic Jun 21 '18 at 21:28
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In my view a PhD perfectly fits a transition to e.g. an R&D environment in industry. Moreover, applied knowledge institutes, financial institutions, national policy making organisations welcome PhD’s. You could also consider starting your own business.

A PhD is not necessarily an advantage when you want to make a transition to consultancy, management, other level policy making, sales, education, etc. Over-qualified is often another word for too expensive. But it is certainly not a black and white area.

I combine my PhD with a career outside academia. I like the combination but my two worlds do not merge easily. Both require a different skill set.

Just follow your heart. It will work out, whatever you choose.

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