I do not have prior experience in research in academic institutions but I do work at research and development as statistician in a top multi national company. Do I need to do some research in academic institutions before applying for phd in a top school ?

  • Where do you intend to apply - what country? What degree(s) do you hold?
    – Buffy
    Dec 10, 2021 at 15:32
  • are there colleagues in your current position who worked in academia before joining your company who you could ask for advise? Prior to covid I would say: just have a cup of coffee with them, but... The problem is that some work done by companies is really interesting while others is (academically) boring and irrelevant. So based on the limited information you gave us, you could either be a really interesting candidate or one that ends up on the discard pile immediately. Dec 10, 2021 at 15:54

2 Answers 2


The top schools in the US do require some research experience. Ph.D. is a research degree. The number of seats are few whereas many people who are applying, already have publications. Hence, even if they don't mention research as a requirement explicitly, people who have that, definitely have an advantage over others who don't.

However, if you have a degree from a top institution and a good GRE score (above 320), it will help. Your industry experience in a top multi-national company will be beneficial too. I don't think that you need to have academic research experience per se, industry research experience will do as well. If you have done dissertations during your undergraduate or graduate studies, those are research experiences too. Add them to your resume. Just remember getting at least one or two academic recommendation letters, especially from your dissertation supervisor.

Last but not the least, do not put all your eggs in one basket. Besides applying to some top schools, also apply to tier 2 schools and have some safety options. For a Ph.D., the reputation of the school is not as important as the faculty fit. Perhaps a tier 2 school will be a better fit according to your research interests.

Try your best and you might have a shot.


Generally speaking, prior research experience is not necessary for applying to a Ph.D. program because a doctorate program is supposed to teach and train you the research skill. Often, a researcher gets the first (real) research project done in his Ph.D. thesis. However, prior research experience is (always) a plus to get into a doctorate program.

  • Is this applicable for top schools also? Like Stanford or harvard etc. Or may be the top 50 universities in the world ?
    – Learner
    Dec 10, 2021 at 18:55
  • Yes, it applies to any school. Top schools may have tougher competition. So prior research experience may allow you to have more advantages in getting into their programs.
    – E Zhang
    Dec 10, 2021 at 19:02

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