Q: Which is a better career path after PhD: academia or an industry job?

Detailed Question -

Need post-PhD job advice.

1 Answer to this question

This is a common concern among PhD students across the world. However, note that we can only provide pointers that help you arrive at the decision, and not recommendations. This is also because there is no one right path for everyone.

Some factors that may help you decide are: your interest or inclination (such as whether you like teaching, writing, and communicating about science), job opportunities for each path both in your country and abroad (if you are considering going out of the country), and opportunities for each path for your particular subject or field, both the broad subject and a specific one (such as that in your PhD thesis). For more help on these lines, here is a similar query from earlier that you may refer to: Staying in academia versus taking up an industry post

Additionally, here are some commonly regarded pros and cons for each path.


Jobs in academia offer stability, but mainly for senior academics who have secured tenure. The path to tenure can be a challenging one, and given the limited availability of tenure positions and the amount of competition for these limited positions, the tenure track may not always be achievable, leading to a sense of frustration and a feeling of “wasted time”.

Also, an academic job is not very well-paying (compared with an industry job), especially in the early years. In later years, though, as a senior or veteran academic, the pay as well as perks – both monetary and non-monetary – can be quite significant.


Jobs in industry offer higher pay, both in the early years and as you go up the ladder. Later, if you become an entrepreneur, there is the potential to earn even more if your venture proves a success. On the flip side, industry jobs do not offer relative “job security”, especially in today’s rapidly evolving, technology-driven times.

However, these are only broad concerns and considerations. Additionally, there are many paths and opportunities that lie between or even outside academia and industry. For a quick introduction to these paths, refer to this piece: 15 Career paths for PhDs and postdocs

Finally, you may also choose to be in academia initially and later move to an industry job, and vice versa. This way, apart from the knowledge, you will also have gained the experience to know what is the right, long-term path for you. For some more insights in this direction, you may refer to this Industry Opinion piece: ‘Academia is not the only career path you can follow after your PhD’

For more information, you may refer to this comprehensive series offering career guidance to PhDs and postdocs: What next? Career navigation advice for PhDs/postdocs