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I worked full time throughout undergrad and about 11 months after undergrad in the pharmaceutical industry. I worked mainly in manufacturing and quality control doing mainly routine testing and assay troubleshooting where I learned several lab skills. I also have undergrad research experience (and a publication). I’m planning on applying to PhD programs in biomedical science in the US and I was wondering if these industry experiences will be beneficial for my application. How much of the industry experiences, if any, will be beneficial?

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    As long as they are relevant for the direction of your study and fit into the story of the application, anything is useful.
    – quantacad
    Oct 8, 2022 at 7:05
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    FYI similar question was asked here: academia.stackexchange.com/q/120/19607 but the focus there was CS rather than biomed. (I am not in either area and I don't know if there is a difference.)
    – Kimball
    Oct 8, 2022 at 11:15

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I largely disagree with the earlier answers on this. You have 11 months of work under your belt that competing applicants are unlikely to have. That's 11 months of maturity, and 11 months that demonstrate that you've been earning a living and still want to go into a graduate program, suggesting a strong commitment. Aside from what you've been doing during that employment, that's great stuff for any grad school application. Also, since (presumably) you haven't gotten fired, it shows an ability to work with others, and to do your job to your supervisor's satisfaction.

If you don't believe an admissions committee will find this important, part of the job you need to achieve in your application portfolio is telling the admissions committee why it is important.

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    Indeed. Further, "...they also (should) give some though to how well the person will do out in the world with the degree with an eye on representation of the institution & program, and of course economic ability to contribute money as an alumnus. So a candidate's interest, abilities and success in industry could certainly have a positive influence on acceptance, depending of course on the details." from comment
    – uhoh
    Oct 9, 2022 at 0:24
  • OP undoubtedly did get useful experience and it's worth putting a positive spin on it. But that wasn't the question. The question is whether PhD admissions committees will care. They're academics and researchers who typically have almost zero industrial experience and they're choosing future academics and researchers. I have not seen any evidence they care about candidates' industrial experience or, for that matter, LORs from industry. They want a strong academic record and research experience and LORs from academics and researchers. Oct 9, 2022 at 1:19
  • @NicoleHamilton - you might be underestimating the amount of industrial interactions faculty members in the biomedical sciences have. There are enough faculty that have their own companies, or consult with industry, or get research funding from industry, that a general industrial awareness exists. Oct 9, 2022 at 1:26
  • Those are not typical industrial experiences. I grant that if an applicant's industrial experience does include starting their own biomedical company, consulting, or obtaining research funding, that would attract attention. But do you really think that's the kind of experience OP is talking about? I'll say again, most junior TT faculty have basically zero industrial experience of any kind, so it can't be that important. Oct 9, 2022 at 2:05
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    I'm not sure whether this might be mainly a cultural difference - but if an applicant told me that their industry experience is important because working for eleven months in a company without getting fired shows "an ability to work with others, and to do your job to your supervisor's satisfaction", this would certainly not increase their chances (to put it mildly). Oct 11, 2022 at 16:39
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Doctoral programs are about research. Your experience doesn't seem to be research oriented, so I'd guess that it counts for little, though positive. But it does explain what you've been doing in the interim and that seems productive, so a good thing to state.

If the lab skills are specific to what you intend to study then it is a bit more positive, so focus on that aspect.

But other things such as GPA (especially in major subjects) and letters of recommendation will count for more in a US application.

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  • Among all the other excellent answers you've written that I've appreciated and upvoted, this is the first that I've ever disagreed with. While universities certainly consider likely academic success in the program as a baseline, they also give some though to how well the person will do out in the world with the degree with an eye on representation of the institution & program, and of course economic ability to contribute money as an alumnus. So a candidate's interest, abilities and success in industry could certainly have a positive influence on acceptance, depending of course on the details.
    – uhoh
    Oct 9, 2022 at 0:20
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I completely agree with Scott Seidman's answer that this is likely to be a big plus for several reasons outlined there, and that you should be proactive in helping to make that clear.

You've mentioned:

I worked mainly in manufacturing and quality control doing mainly routine testing and assay troubleshooting where I learned several lab skills. I also have undergrad research experience (and a publication).

I'm pretty sure that research faculty in the program would be horrified to discover that skills and ability to carry out research from day one were being ignored as selection criteria. Certainly when they select students to work in their lab, "Can this person be productive here?" is a primary selection criteria.

...I was wondering if these industry experiences will be beneficial for my application.

It should be so likely it will be in some cases. But as Scott Seidman's answer (linked above) points out:

...part of the job you need to achieve in your application portfolio is telling the admissions committee why it is important. (emphasis added)

Lean in to the skills you have developed in your undergraduate research and in your industrial experience. You can DO stuff on day one, you can be a positive influence on others and bring perspective from an industrial setting at least to laboratories where research may overlap with industry, e.g. research potentially contributing to the development of new equipment, techniques and technology, drugs, biomedical materials and procedures, etc.

Actually, when you specifically say biomedical rather than biological, some overlap with industry seems to be guaranteed one way or the other.

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In my experience, very few junior tenure track faculty have any industry experience beyond maybe a couple summer internships along the way. I think you can take from that that industry experience is not a big factor in PhD admissions.

Factors that really move the needle are strong LORs, a compelling SOP, and any research experience and publications. GPA needs to be above a threshold but beyond that doesn't matter so much. (Top programs could fill every spot with 4.0 students but they don't because that's not the only thing they care about.) Industry experience and glowing LORs from industry may be helpful, but definitely not as much.

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    I would be interested to learn whether those who downvoted did so because they think that the claims in this answer are not true or because they think the claims should not be true. Oct 11, 2022 at 16:42

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