The PhD program I am applying to is asking about my professional goals and ambitions? I am thinking to answer it with respect to short-term and long-term goals. Short-term goals are easy to write about and relate to gaining and enhancement of technical as well as soft skills. What is confusing me are the long-term goals as I am planning to write about future career in this part. I am open to working as a faculty or a researcher in the laboratories mostly partnered with industry. I am even open to pursuing a post-doc if possible? So should I list all these options or stick to just one? Or am I tackling the question in the wrong manner?


I should mention my field is engineering because apparently this question is field specific.

2 Answers 2


This may be subject dependent, so the following is from math. Keep it short. One sentence describing your long term goals is fine at this stage. Getting more specific doesn't really help, and runs a real risk of coming off as slightly naive if you miss a detail.

If your long term goals were unusual, maybe they'd be worth articulating at more length. Otherwise, saying something reasonable and expected like research with flexibility in terms of employer type is unlikely to help or hurt you.


It is unwise to ask someone, who is just preparing for graduate studies, about their long-term plans. For it is that stage of one's life when long-term plans are still being formed. A first-year grad student dreaming of academia may by the end of their PhD studies decide to switch to industry, or to scientific journalism, or to some lucrative field.

Nonetheless, you have to abide by the rules of bureaucracy and answer this question. So, yes, you may consider telling them that you intend to become a faculty carrying out research in collaboration with industry. Many will like it -- especially for the reason that the words "working with industry" imply: "getting grants from industry".

  • 1
    If you propose industry collaboration in a department that doesn't collaborate much with industry, I suspect it will hurt an application. The committee will worry their department is not a good fit for you and choose someone who fits better. This is for their good and the good of the applicant, too. Finally, at least in my experience, admissions decisions are made by faculty committees, not associate deans. No need to cater to someone who has no involvement in the process.
    – Bryan Krause
    Commented May 24 at 18:38
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    @BryanKrause From the OP, I understand that their area has an overlap with industry. These days, most departments and divisions are obsessed with grants more than with science, even at `good' schools. Exceptions exist, but are not numerous (perhaps, some dept of pure math at some Ivy League school). The situation you described looks rare. Commented May 24 at 18:45
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    Nobody is looking at incoming graduate students to bring in industry contracts (or funding of any sort), that's nonsense. That is the role of faculty, not students. The only purpose of the description of future career plans is to (1) make sure there is not some massive gap between what the student wants and what the department can offer, and (2) provide another opportunity to assess how clearly the student can communicate.
    – R1NaNo
    Commented May 25 at 1:49

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