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I have a Master's degree, two years of research experience followed by an industry job for a few years. I had always intended to do a PhD eventually but the jobs were interesting, and later COVID messed up things. I now have a research heavy industry offer where I'll get a rare opportunity to help build up a lab from scratch, but I'm nervous about giving up on applying to PhD positions. Will lack of a PhD harm my career later on in spite of research experience? If I were to apply for a PhD position later on around the age of say 35, will my age work against me?

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    Whether to take the industry offer or do your PhD depends on what you want to do for a career. Someone with their MS could still be just as effective in industrial research. There are also managerial vs. technical career tracks that should be considered. It also depends on what the research is. The only thing I feel comfortable answering is that being 35 will not work against you in PhD applications.
    – kjacks21
    Jan 31 at 16:14
  • Thank you, I'm not really interested in managerial career tracks. At the risk of sounding cheesy, I just love science and solving problems. Honestly, mine is a bit of a niche field in physics, not very commercial, so the lines between purely industrial and research work are sort of blurred. Industry jobs are quite far and few in between. My preference is doing research but I don't mind industry jobs if they're not monotonous.
    – quarkle
    Jan 31 at 16:59
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    I agree with kjacks that it's not a problem to start a PhD after years of industry experience, many people do it and they often manage the difficulties better than inexperienced PhD students. Imho the main obstacle to this could be your own motivation: after a rich experience in industry, a nice salary and possibly the comfort of a good position, will you be happy to start a PhD? It might feel like a step down in some aspects (financially in particular).
    – Erwan
    Feb 2 at 16:34
  • That's true. I guess I'm more worried about the lack of a PhD being an obstacle to getting a job several years down the line. I have known a couple of instances where that happened even to people with decades of research experience, and wanted to know if that really is a widespread thing.
    – quarkle
    Feb 3 at 15:16
  • This highly depends on the industry / niche and region. Your best bet is to look around your network and see whether people currently in those roles are mostly PhDs or not. I know anecdotally of domains where companies would rather pick candidates with relevant work experience and avoid PhDs.
    – kabZX
    Feb 19 at 9:39

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