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After Ph.D. I went to pursue a position in industry. But after 2 years I figured that the company culture is not suited for me. Will the hiring professors in academia accept the fact that I wasn't always in academia and hire me as a researcher for example in a university lab?

Thanks.

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4 Answers 4

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Although the exact answer is somewhat field-dependent, in general I would say that industrial experience is highly valued in academia. You should try applying to research positions of your choice and see how successful your applications are. Good luck.

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    More so in engineering than theoretical physics (much less English Lit).
    – Jon Custer
    Commented Jul 23, 2023 at 23:41
  • @Jon Custer I've seen the case for management
    – Mike Liu
    Commented Jul 24, 2023 at 2:05
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No. After I finished my second post doctoral position and left the academic environment, I was never able to come back, even if I had the doctoral degree and multiple publications that were not so bad (normal journals, peer reviewed) and (initially) quite recent. I wrote really many applications but looks like in most of the cases was not even briefly considered as a possible candidate. During these years I was able to find a new job in the industry several times as needed, and quite easily.

I do not tie my failure to return to science with something relevant to my personality or lack of achievement, and more suspect that this path violates some unwritten rules. I have few other friends who ended up the same way. It is not possible to get a post doctoral position after few years of work in the industry. It is not possible to get any lower position. Maybe some really extreme history may allow you to become a professor, but I cannot even think out what it could possibly be.

At very least, the industry almost never allows to have publications, even if you are so extremely lucky as permitted to do research work there.

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This is extremely field-dependent. It will also depend on whether you want to mostly teach, do research under a professor, or lead a research team in academia.

In engineering, industry experience can be extremely valuable. People who have worked in basically any engineering position in industry for decades can get teaching-focused jobs without much difficulty. People who have done R&D work in industry can get research-focused jobs, especially in a hot field, and especially if they are continuing to publish while in industry. People who have worked in industry are seen as extremely qualified to do research in a technician or research scientist position under a professor, but are rare in academia because they are almost always too expensive for a faculty member to be able to afford to pay them on grants.

In biology, industry experience is not viewed as valuable in the same way. Once you leave the path of undergrad -> tech/lab manager (optional) -> grad student -> postdoc -> PI, it's very hard to get back on that track. Even if you are still in academia -- for example, taking a research scientist position after a postdoc instead of moving up to PI -- it is really hard to get back on the road to becoming a PI. I know a few biologists who have chosen "alt-ac" careers in which they still sometimes interact with academics, and one of them recently shared that they don't feel that they are respected as a scientist anymore. I do not know of anyone who got a PhD, worked in industry, and then returned to a research scientist or technician position, but this would almost certainly be easier than trying to get a job as a PI. The question is just whether your experience would make you more or less desirable to a PI in comparison with a graduating PhD student or super-postdoc who has not spent any time in industry. I'm not sure of the answer to that but I think it would depend a lot on the specific work you were doing in industry and whether it produced publishable research.

Those are the two fields I have the most familiarity with. From the little exposure I've had to philosophy, they seem to operate similarly to biology in that there is a defined track and if you deviate from it, it's very difficult to get back on. I can't venture a guess about any other field, though.

You should reach out to people in your field to get a sense of whether people successfully do this and how they are perceived.

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When I worked at one University, which has VERY strong links with industry, (in fact the Uni built specific courses for the companies) they often took people from industry to teach courses.

One colleague, who was a good teacher, decided that he preferred industry life and wanted to move back. His issue was he was under contract and was worried how they would handle it. Would they force him to complete the contract, or pay it out etc etc.

I told him they would make all efforts for him to leave very quietly: for the simple reason they did not want to "frighten" others from coming to try their hand at teaching.

Sure enough he went back to industry, the contract magically "disappeared" and was easy all round.

Don't ask me for evidence - I know his name and the Uni, and the company he went back to, but they deserve their privacy.

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  • How does that answer the question? It's the complete opposite scenario... Commented Jul 24, 2023 at 9:37
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    @Itération122442 because that person I mentioned went BOTH ways and so did others. So Academics will hire people from both industry or academia...
    – Solar Mike
    Commented Jul 24, 2023 at 9:41
  • @DimitriVulis I don't ask a question or search for clarification, so perhaps you chose incorrectly...
    – Solar Mike
    Commented Jul 24, 2023 at 10:34

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