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 ?
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.
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.