I am wanting to know how necessary it is to work in industry after undergrad and before applying to a PhD. On one hand, I have a lot of industry/ research experience and have a good deal of specialized knowledge in the area of computer science that I want to research. On the other hand, most people I work with worked in industry before getting their PhD. What's the general consensus?

  • 8
    A large majority of PhD students I have met (and professors, too, for that matter) have zero industry experience, and they all seem to be doing just fine. So, I'm not really sure what specifically you are aiming for with your question. For example, if you want to do research that is industry-relevant, then having some industry experience can help in that regard; however, this seems fairly obvious to me, and I'm left wondering if I'm missing some critical detail here.
    – Mad Jack
    Commented Jul 21, 2015 at 23:51
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    I think you need to tell us what subject you are studying. I'm working on my math PhD, and only one of 40 grad students in my department has any kind of industry experience. It may be different in other subject areas though.
    – user141592
    Commented Jul 22, 2015 at 0:06
  • Also, consider the answers to these two questions academia.stackexchange.com/questions/120/… and academia.stackexchange.com/questions/3256/…
    – user141592
    Commented Jul 22, 2015 at 0:07
  • I work with software engineering research at Carnegie Mellon right now and nearly everyone from professors to PhD students have had industry experience. Is this specific to my area? @Johanna Commented Jul 22, 2015 at 2:34
  • 1
    @SophieGairo Sounds like it might be area specific, or even specific to your program.
    – user141592
    Commented Jul 22, 2015 at 2:59

2 Answers 2


From my experience in CS in Canada, most student do not have industry experience before doing their Ph.D. And I have not seen this as a requirement for entering the Ph.D either. The reason is that a Ph.D. is not an industrial project although it could be related to the industry in some cases. But it does not need to. During a Ph.D. the goal is not to commercialize a project. But it is to advance knowledge in a given field. Some people do a Ph.D. project in collaboration with a company. But from my experience, most people don't. So to answer your question: it is not important to have industry experience. But it can help. Perhaps that you will know how to better manage your time, etc. and this may be help in carrying your Ph.D project.


In addition to Phil's answer, and depends on your workplace policy, you have a chance to earn your PHD through practical-research at work. For example: If your company is developing a new algorithm for VR-game helmet combining the player's neurotransmitter-signals, you can propose a research in that field, while working and developing this algorithm.

As for the original poster, you said that you have a lot of industry-experience, so maybe you should check out this option too.

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