I completed my PhD in 2020 and have been working in a science policy analyst position since 2021.

I enjoy the work that I am doing but it doesn't feel the same kind of challenging and intellectually stimulating as my research experience during my PhD and postdoc. I read papers broadly associated with my field (materials science) but they are often unrelated to my past research experience.

I often feel that I could have done the same thing without a PhD (even though it was a requirement), and my masters degree would have sufficed.

When compared to compensation, the salary is less ($80K) than what an assistant professor gets in my country ($110K). But the working hours are strictly 35 hours a week, so I have a healthy work life balance.

However, I feel that I am underutilizing my potential and have wasted my PhD degree.

Any advice for me? How to overcome this feeling of being useless when not contributing anything to research? Does this ever go away?

My PhD advisor has offered me a part-time research associate position, that can be worked on during the weekends. This will bring in $10k extra. Will it be a good idea to accept it?


2 Answers 2


Salary in the private work can only go up if you change to a more managerial position.

You are unsatisfied because of salary and because of intellectual stimulus (or at least, it looks like that, although if I were in your shoes I would carefully consider what an assistant professor does with the extra pre-tax 30k ... with no time to enjoy them, what's the point? investing them for retirement? they die early because of chronic fatigue :D ).

Your advisor is sending you a very good life raft: a temporary research position, so you can get your foot back in the academia (if you really want to) while at the same time you keep your position in the private world (terms&conditions may apply, check them) and you can go "full in" after a search of a pay raise (even by changing employer).

Good luck!


Somewhere there is advice to change jobs after three years. Unless you are entirely satisfied and want to do that same job until you are dragged off to the old-age home. You are coming up to the three years.

If the company you work for has a research division, get into it. If not, or if they won't let you move, polish up that CV. Start looking for other companies that do have research divisions. Or possibly even companies that have different focus to the company you work for right now.

Consider whether the kind of research you would be fulfilled doing is happening in your home town or even home country.

Materials science is a huge topic. Maybe if you moved "sideways" a little there is something you could enjoy doing. Was your thesis on new ways to produce such-and-such? What about new ways to test such-and-such to detect degradation in use? You see the idea I am trying to get at. There are many aspects of a topic that can be useful to your employer and also interesting to work on.

String out a fantasy. Imagine you worked for ten years on some new product line. And each time your research made the company some more money, they gave you a raise, promotion, and a larger lab. Pretty soon you could be a senior researcher with several lab assistants, an office with a window, and a parking spot near the front door.

Now remember what it took to get you your PhD. How often was your work week as short as 35 hours? Pretty sure the typical prof in a university works more than 35 hours also. Part of that is that the work interests them, so they don't feel the urge to escape the office the first minute they can. So finding a niche in a company that interests you is important. But so is commitment and effort. You must choose what you want to invest your time in, and how much.

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .