Let me begin with a short disclaimer: I am aware that similar questions have been asked here more than once. However, none of the answers seemed useful to me and hence, I decided to make my own post about it.

I'm 29 years old, having just finished my PhD in math and working as a PostDoc (fixed contract of 1 year). The focus of my research is on analysis in partial differential equations (nothing numerical though).

Backstory: Although I could never imagine myself doing something different than being a researcher, as soon as the last year of my PhD started, I began thinking of leaving academia. The reasons: lack of motivation/inspiration for research and overwhelming chase of permanent position (if you get any after all). It took me, of course, more than half a year to realize that I am not a sort of "quitter" and I just simply changed my mind. For anyone wondering why did I continued as a PostDoc, the answer is "because it was the only job I could find at the moment". It was an offer that came out of the blue and I mostly grabbed it 'cause I would be unemployed otherwise. However, in the back of my mind, it was also me giving a second chance to academia.

But no, unfortunately it does not work out. Teaching is something not only I feel good at but also enjoy sometimes. Yet, I would not like to remain "teaching assistant" for the rest of my life (bad salary and no growth expectations). On the other hand, research is something that bores me. I see no interest/motivation in studying new tools and techniques or proving another theorem in which we simply replaced the X assumption by Y. Cherry on top, I do not feel that excellent/pro in research and this makes me feel even worse every time I have to study something new and uninteresting. I do have some papers besides my thesis but I never felt as comfortable in research as I do in teaching.

To the point: I really feel that my time here is limited and that i have to jump off the boat (although it might be a bit late; I'm 29 with no working experience). My huge problem is that I do not know where to look at. Once, when I was 16, being a scientist inspired me so much that I never questioned any of my choices (bachelor,master,PhD all back to back). I was just doing what needed to be done in order to reach to my final destination. Now the destination is foggy and this is sad (if not devastating). I see a lot of mathematicians jumping to data science or software engineering but I am not quite sure that I would enjoy something like that. Moreover, besides some basics in Matlab and Python, my programming skills are not that great.


  1. Do you have any suggestions on how to get inspired/motivated again for a new career goal? I am not afraid of having to educate myself further as long as I am passionate about the goal.
  2. Is there anything else, besides data science, programming and banking (which I find completely dull) for mathematicians with no previous working experience? Preferrably something challenging, with career growth and home office possibilities, that is is sexy and fun (as being a researcher was :P)

I apologize for the super long post but I thought a few more details would be important. Many many thanks in advance for your time. Any feedback is highly appreciated!

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    Country? Willingness to do a job that has nothing to do with mathematics? Dec 12, 2022 at 18:03
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    I have master in math, pdes, numerical methods and continuum mechanics, and now I write physics simulations for visual effects in movies. I really enjoy my job and my math background is really useful. Of course, it is mostly programming but proper understanding of Navier-Stokes equation or role of different boundary conditions is handy and it is an unique skill among my coworkers which are mostly computer scientists.
    – tom
    Dec 12, 2022 at 18:47
  • @AlexanderWoo At the moment I 'm living in Germany and I would prefer to stay in Europe. I would be willing to have a job in which my diplomas won't be completely useless (with or maybe without much math involved as well) :/ Dec 12, 2022 at 23:19
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    @tom wow! That is the first time I hear something like that. It sounds indeed fun and cool! But I suppose that is quite far from my background... May I ask how did you land this job? Dec 12, 2022 at 23:23
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    @JW Many manyt thanks for the feedback. You provided lots of examples which I hadn't considered so far and I am curious to find out :) Dec 13, 2022 at 19:17

3 Answers 3


A mathematician, but not motivated to do research? (Assuming you are in the US...) There are teaching positions not requiring (or not emphasizing) research. Four-year colleges; two-year colleges; even some elite high schools may be happy to get a Ph.D. to teach advanced math.

  • Thanks a lot for the answer. Motivated not anymore. I know teaching is always an option but I was kind of hoping for something more fun/interesting than that... Dec 12, 2022 at 23:25
  • @kaithkolesidou Teaching becomes boring if you keep teaching the same way -- which then will likely be the way you were taught. If your goal is to broaden your teaching repertoire, to become actually good at it, it is not boring at all: I find it quite an interesting challenge. Dec 13, 2022 at 5:44

Transdisciplinary research needs researchers like you: PhD-prepared problem-solvers! While teaching may not be your calling, you may find that your unique approach to problem-solving would be ideal within an academic setting where you might focus on work being done within a cross-disciplinary research institute.

  • Many thanks for the answer! I might be a bit slow but could you please elaborate more on that? What kind of job precisely could serve the purpose of transdisciplinary research within institutes? Some examples would help... Dec 12, 2022 at 23:28

I originally wrote most of what's below in comments, but on reflection it should probably be an answer:

Any interest in applied PDEs? They show up in parts of mechanical engineering, electrical engineering, geophysics, physical oceanography, atmospheric science, spatial population models, epidemiology, traffic models, biomedical engineering, signal/image processing, etc.

If you're potentially interested in a specific field/domain, go find out more about it. How does/might the field use PDEs (or mathematics more generally)? What could you contribute and what need is out there for that? Be prepared to learn some domain knowledge. Learn to speak their "language" and find out what problems they'd love to solve.

You mention being in Germany. Would the Netherlands be an option for you, perhaps at a University of Applied Sciences? (In Dutch, hogeschool, similar to Fachhochschule in Germany, but with differing job entry requirements.)

By the way, you might try reading parts of https://80000hours.org/ (a career advice website) as food for thought. (Please note that I am not affiliated with 80,000 Hours in any way. Just suggesting something that might help.)

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