With the academic job situation so tight and uncertain, I am thinking of jobs outside academia (after a PhD in Computer Science). There are plenty of programming jobs that require an undergrad or even no degree. I tried some of them and they are so routine and so narrow that one gets frustrated easily. They also involve 8-5, M-F drudgery. Can anyone suggest better alternatives. How do companies advertise for research positions? I haven't seen many ads for those. BTW, I live in Southeast of US and due to family reasons can not relocate far.

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    No, I don't hate coding. In fact, I love it. But many of the jobs I took had people "finding and fixing bugs" or doing very routine coding or migrating from one .NET version to another. I doubt you can call that real coding.
    – Sam Jones
    Jan 26, 2015 at 18:11
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    You should contact a tech recruiter. There's plenty of new development projects out there for you to try out as well, in addition to other answers. I had no luck finding a job until I got a recruiter and ended up getting a bunch of interviews at higher-level development places.
    – Compass
    Jan 26, 2015 at 18:16
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    You should specify the field of your PhD in the title or ask the question not limited to the Computer Science field
    – Nicolas
    Jan 26, 2015 at 19:32
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    I am surprised at "finding and fixing bugs" being too easy. The most difficult thinking I've ever had to do was some industry debug. I found subsequent PhD coursework and research relatively relaxing. The first debug jobs I got were easy, but as I showed I could solve the easy problems I kept being given harder ones. Jan 26, 2015 at 21:38
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    Patricia, I never said "finding and fixing bugs" was "easy". It doesn't give you the same satisfaction as building something new. The project I last worked on had a massive code base with lots of bugs, and I spent days and nights looking at old (Visual Studio 2005) code that had very poor design. @user137 - I like academia, but it's hard to find tenure track positions. Most jobs are post-doc or adjunct faculty.
    – Sam Jones
    Jan 27, 2015 at 1:19

3 Answers 3


There is a large and active demand for computer science Ph.D. holds outside of academia. Some of the main classes of positions:

  • Contract R&D organizations like IHMC (near you in Florida) or my own employer, work a lot like soft-money academia.
  • Government laboratories are much the same, though the money works differently.
  • Government agencies need Ph.D.-level people to help manage their R&D portfolios, either directly as program managers or via private-sector contractors like Booz-Allen.
  • Giant companies like Lockheed-Martin, Pfizer, or Ford have high-tech or internal R&D sections that do Ph.D.-level computer science work.
  • Near any major tech university, you will find lots of startup companies and consulting firms and other odd niches.
  • Finance companies and hedge funds will offer you lots of money in exchange for your immortal soul.

These are just a few of the more typical routes: the research ecosystem in the US is actually very complex and has a lot of strange niches; I don't have solid numbers, but I suspect the outside-of-academia R&D world is actually much larger than traditional academia, and that's even before we start counting non-R&D positions like hedge funds.

Some of these sorts of jobs, you can find via ordinary online job listings. You'll likely do a lot better, though, if you reach out through your professional network and research community. Your advisor and other faculty are one good place to start: they'll likely have former students and other colleagues to put you in touch with outside of academia. Another good step is to go to the big conferences in your area, especially those with a more applied flavor, and look for the industry people there. You'll likely find quite a number of good opportunities, especially if you are a US citizen.

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    "Finance companies and hedge funds will offer you lots of money in exchange for your immortal soul." Why is Lockheed Martin not included here?
    – G. Bach
    Jan 26, 2015 at 22:53
  • @G.Bach Because they're such a complex company that they work on a lot of cool civilian aerospace stuff, like the Orion crew launch vehicle and the Hubble space telescope too. Also, for the OP: they've got major operations in Alabama. I can't say the same for hedge funds.
    – jakebeal
    Jan 27, 2015 at 3:30
  • @jakebeal I have found most of my friends at Lockheed bailed out ASAP. While Lockheed does have cool projects, the chance of you getting put on one of those cool projects is not high.
    – Compass
    Jan 27, 2015 at 16:42
  • @Compass Sad to hear... I've not worked with them personally, myself, so I don't know their culture.
    – jakebeal
    Jan 27, 2015 at 17:29

If you're finding boring (to you) jobs, you're not looking in the right places. Off the top of my head I thought of SAS, which is located in North Carolina. One possibility is to look for companies that were spun off from university research.

Ask your professors--where did other master's and PhD graduates end up, if they didn't go into academia? Talk to the career center. Even though they may be focused on undergraduates, they may have some ideas.


I have found LinkedIn to be pretty good at recommending jobs for me, both with its own algorithms and with the occasional 'inmail' from a recruiter. Sometimes it's enough to make me wrestle with leaving academia, for the reasons you cite in the question.

Make sure you use it to its full potential by (signing up!), updating your profile and making it look amazing, following companies, joining groups, connecting with people you know, and connecting with tech recruiters.

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