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I recently completed my PhD and I'm now looking for a job in the chemical/pharmaceutical industry. Either in production or in research.

From somebody on the inside (senior position in research in a major pharma company), I was told that actually nobody gets hired without PostDoc experience. However, PostDoc is no guarantee, I was also told, for a position. My feeling is that I rather spend the time on the job, learning what is important for the company. Simply put, I don't want to do PostDoc because I don't feel like that (but that's another story).

Here the question is: Has anybody gotten into chemical/pharma industry without PostDoc and without using inter-personal connections (that means only by directly applying for positions stated on the website of the company)?

  • What is your specific area of research? – Conor Sep 9 '13 at 21:41
  • I'm happy to provide this detail, but I wonder why it is relevant? – TMOTTM Sep 9 '13 at 22:12
  • I am in exactly the same situation. Big pharma and biotech companies hire either BS with 3-5 years of industry experience of MS with 1-3 years of experience. A postdoc can get you a senior scientist (R4) position. Alas, PhDs fall through like ugly ducklings -- too expensive on one side and too inexperienced on the other. Besides, nowadays it seems like you need a postdoc just to get a postdoc. I am not against postdocs but I have a family and I've stretched thin making it through PhD. I've been in school for 20 years; when will I finally get a job?? – user8936 Oct 10 '13 at 5:24
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Yes, it is definitely possible, as I have students who did it. But it really depends on the type of position sought: position advertisements usually list a “level of experience required”, so be sure to check it before applying, and possible taylor your application/interview in response to that.


PS: Regarding “without using inter-personal connections”, I'm not sure how to interpret that. Surely during your PhD, and your job search, you have met (will meet) people at various places. Why would you refuse to use these people to help your application, or your inside knowledge of position openings in a given company?

  • Thanks. About "interpersonal", that means is there a realistic chance to get hired in a company when you don't know anyone there who can put your letter on the top of the pile. And your making a good point about the particular position sought. That definitely is important. – TMOTTM Sep 13 '13 at 20:52
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Five years ago, I would have said that you need a postdoc to get a job in industry. Now, I know an increasing number of graduate students who are getting industry jobs right out of grad school. However, my experience is mostly in biotech, not chemistry.

I know several graduate students who went straight into biotech jobs without doing a postdoc. For some, they had a contact at the company where they were hired who knew their skills and personality. For at least one, he had a very specific skill set and applied online to a Scientist position at a company and got the job (he was their 5th employee and is still here 5 years later).

Do a postdoc if you still need to build skills that will make you more marketable, or if it's in a lab that is industry-friendly where you can form great industry contacts. If you already have a good skill set, work now on growing your network for the types of jobs you seek. Having a great network of contacts is a key to a successful job search.

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