Progression in academia, in general, seems and feels extremely linear, i.e. you do your undergrad, then you do graduate studies, then you do a post-doc (or two, or three ... ) and eventually if you are good/persistent/well-connected/... enough you might get funded to start your own group and live the rest of your professional life in chasing grants, fighting with faculty and editors etc [yes, I am exaggerating], which I don't find particularly appealing.
Alternative to this scenario is to quit academia and go to the industry, often labeled as "selling out" by senior scientists I have personally met and discussed this subject with.
But life in general never gives a clear bisections, like you do either A or B, but there are typically a number of options to choose from. Thus I figure there should be some shades of gray in between the white and black. As a resource to other doctoral students I figured we could perhaps accumulate the possible career paths for people that have finished their PhDs, besides trying to climb up the ladder of academic ascension.
The ones I can think of are:
specialized (lab) technician: working for instance with complex instruments. I have noticed in our lab that having an experienced technician operating and maintaining the heavy instruments is invaluable for the group. Not only for the sake of projects going as smooth as possible, but also for teaching grad students how to properly use the instruments.
popular science author/editor: I have read quite a few popular science books by people with PhDs on fields that I know little about (here's a good example). Similarly, magazines such as Illustrated Science typically need a middle layer between cutting-edge science and interested (but not adequately educated) readers.
research position at industry: I am really going on a limb here, as I don't personally know anyone who is actively doing just that, but companies in several different fields actually do research; either in collaboration with universities, or in-house. I am inclined to think that such a position would include less grant-seeking, and publishing headaches (perhaps replaced with other types of headaches).
production position at industry: from what I understand this is the more typical scenario where people that go to industry after doing a PhD end up in. Based on my discussions with people (in academia) these positions typically include little to none intellectual development or acquisition of new skills. Thus not-so-desired or looked-down-upon by academics.
- what other career paths are there, that I might have missed?
- am I correct in my understand of the above 4 paths? are there any insights that you would like to add?