Chris Woolston 

Nature 550, 549–552 (26 October 2017) doi:10.1038/nj7677-549a Published online 25 October 2017

https://www.nature.com/nature/journal/v550/n7677/full/nj7677-549a.html

Nature’s 2017 PhD survey reveals that, despite many problems with doctoral programmes, PhD students are as committed as ever to pursuing research careers.

Adapted from Getty

Science PhD students love what they do — but many also suffer for it. That’s one of the top findings from Nature‘s survey of more than 5,700 doctoral students worldwide.

The survey is the latest in a biennial series that aims to explore all aspects of PhD students’ lives and career aspirations. Respondents indicated high levels of satisfaction with PhD programmes overall, but also revealed significant levels of worry and uncertainty: more than one-quarter listed mental health as an area of concern, and 45% of those (or 12% of all respondents) said that they had sought help for anxiety or depression caused by their PhD studies (see ‘A challenging road’). Many said that they find their work stressful, worry about their futures and wonder whether their efforts will pay off in earning them a satisfying and well-compensated career. For some, it’s almost too much to handle. “Every university should have a special room reserved for graduate students to get some crying time in when they are feeling overwhelmed,” said an ecology student at a US university, in the survey’s comment section.

Responses also uncovered a strong, perhaps crucial, connection between a well-matched PhD adviser and the student’s success. Good mentorship was the main factor driving satisfaction levels. Most respondents were happy with their adviser, but nearly one-quarter said they would switch advisers if they could. Students can survive and thrive during a PhD programme — challenges and all — but they generally can’t do it alone. “I’m a happy PhD student,” a genetics student from South Africa wrote in the comments. “This life is difficult but it’s what I’ve wanted to do my whole life, so it’s worth it. I also have a fantastic supervisor who is understanding, helpful and ready to push me to the next level.”

Widespread struggles

The respondents to the 2017 survey came from diverse scientific fields and from most parts of the world. Asia, Europe and North America were all strongly and equally represented. The survey was advertised through links on nature.com, in Springer Nature digital products and through e-mail campaigns. The data (which are available in full at go.nature.com/2kzo89o) were fleshed out by interviews with a small group of respondents who had indicated that they were willing to be contacted.

There were many positives. Overall, more than three-quarters of respondents were at least somewhat satisfied with their decision to do a PhD, a strong endorsement for such a massive commitment. That result closely mirrors those from other surveys of PhD students, says Katia Levecque, an industrial-relations specialist at Ghent University in Belgium. “About 80% of PhD students are satisfied or very satisfied,” she says. “It’s a consistent finding in most universities.”

The fact that 12% of respondents sought help for anxiety or depression caused by their PhD underscores the stresses of the graduate student life, Levecque says. “You’re expected to take responsibility, but you aren’t given control over a lot of issues,” she points out. And because the 12% includes only people who sought help for their distress, it almost certainly understates the prevalence of anxiety and depression among all respondents to the survey.

The Nature survey also found that students with anxiety don’t always have an easy time getting help. Of those who sought assistance, only 35% said that they found helpful resources at their own institution. Nearly 20% said they tried to find help at their home institution but didn’t feel supported.“There are so many cultural and financial barriers to seeking help,” says Levecque.

In the Nature survey, nearly 50% of students who reported seeking help for anxiety or depression said that they were still satisfied or very satisfied with their doctoral programme. Kate Samardzic, who studies pharmacology at the University of Technology Sydney in Australia, was one of the hundreds of respondents who live with that apparent paradox. She’s satisfied with her programme, but she is also under considerable stress. “There’s a lot of uncertainty in becoming a researcher,” she says. “You’re under pressure to please your adviser and do everything in a certain time frame. And you don’t know what kind of job you’ll get at the end of the day. I’m halfway through and I still don’t know where it’s going to lead.”

Samardzic knows that she isn’t the only one going through this. She had read a study published in March by Levecque and colleagues (K. Levecque et alRes. Pol. 468688792017) showing that PhD students were about 2.5 times more likely than highly educated people in the general population to be at risk of depression and other common psychiatric disorders. To tackle this problem, Samardzic, a student representative who serves as liaison to the university board, helped to form Research Resilience, a university group that holds regular seminars designed to help students cope with the emotional toll of PhD studies. “I sensed that there wasn’t enough support for people who are feeling anxious or upset about their PhD programmes,” she says. “That should be more of a priority.”

Research Resilience holds monthly seminars that draw 30–40 students. Recent topics have included tips on mindfulness and the pitfalls of impostor syndrome — the pervasive feeling that one doesn’t really belong with the rest of the PhD crowd (go.nature.com/2gtufgt). “We’re all high-achieving individuals, which makes us even more prone to those sorts of feelings,” Samardzic says. Indeed, nearly one in four respondents to the survey listed impostor syndrome as one of the difficulties they face.

Among them was Andrew Proppe, who studies physical chemistry at the University of Toronto in Canada. Like Samardzic, he is satisfied with his PhD, despite hefty doses of anxiety. For him, feelings of alienation were exacerbated by the fact that, for a while, he also felt physically out of place.

Proppe had started a PhD programme at Princeton University in New Jersey, but left after about a year and a half because, despite having an excellent adviser, he didn’t feel fully prepared for the programme or the town. He had grown up in culture-rich, populous Montreal, and felt disoriented in the relatively small town of Princeton. “It was no fun at all,” he says. “I hadn’t factored in how important the environment would be to me. I gave up everything I had back at home to go out there, and it didn’t seem worth it. I was unhappy.”

Proppe’s current adviser, Ted Sargent at the University of Toronto, was eager to add Proppe to his team. “He was working with one of the world’s best physical chemists at Princeton, so he had some skills that were a clear benefit to my group.” Proppe was also able to provide some insight into how his previous adviser ran his lab. “I asked him to engage in academic espionage,” Sargent jokes. “You might think that after 20 years I have this completely figured out, but it’s still an evolving process.”

Returning to Canada helped Proppe to regain his footing, but it didn’t completely remove the anxiety of PhD work. “I was running the day through my head,” he says. “At three in the morning, I’d be thinking about data sets.” Having never had to deal with much stress or anxiety before in his life, it took him a while to recognize the problem. Once he realized how much his PhD worries were affecting his life, he started to make changes. “I stopped trying to stay at work until 11, to instead make more time to play guitar, exercise and be with my girlfriend,” he says.

A worthwhile commitment

PhD anxiety can have a variety of causes. Among other issues, the survey uncovered widespread concerns about future employment. Only 31% of respondents said that their programme was preparing them well or very well for a satisfying career. But more than three-quarters agreed or strongly agreed that it was preparing them well for a research career, suggesting that many see a significant distinction between a research career and a “satisfying” career. And although two-thirds of respondents said that a doctoral degree would “substantially” or “dramatically” improve their future job prospects, one-third had a more tepid outlook.

Not all respondents are certain that the labour and stress of their programme will pay off. Hannah Brewer, a data scientist at the Institute for Cancer Research in London, says that she second-guesses herself whenever she Googles job openings in her field. “A lot of those jobs only require a master’s degree, so I don’t know if a PhD is going to help in any way,” she says. Still, she’s happy with her decision to get a doctorate. “I wouldn’t do it differently if I could go back,” she says. “I appreciate the level of skill that I’m working at, and I’m excited about my research.”

Important advice

Mentorship contributed more to respondents’ overall satisfaction with their PhD programme than did any other factor. Specifically, guidance from, and recognition by, an adviser proved to be the top determinant.

Yet, a sizeable proportion of survey respondents are unhappy with the mentoring they receive. Beyond the 23% who said they would swap advisers if they could, nearly one-fifth of respondents, or 18%, said that they do not have useful conversations about careers with their advisers — the person who is uniquely well positioned to help doctoral students to identify their ideal career path and learn how to pursue it.

Respondents said that conversations with their supervisor about non-academic careers are notably absent. “My adviser looks down on non-academic jobs and thinks they’re only suitable for people who aren’t very motivated,” wrote a chemistry student in the United States in the comments. Around 30% disagreed or strongly disagreed with the statement that their supervisor has useful advice for non-academic careers, about the same proportion as in Nature‘s 2015 survey of graduate students. Slightly more than half of respondents in this year’s survey agreed that their supervisor was open to their pursuing a degree outside of academia, which also echoes findings from the 2015 survey.

Sensing an institutional indifference towards career development, Samardzic and other students have started organizing careers events in which graduates and other experts talk about their options. She helped to arrange a recent talk by a PhD student who had gone overseas for a workshop on entrepreneurship and biomedical innovation. “There needs to be more of that,” she says. “I feel like I don’t know about half of the jobs that exist out there.”

The survey responses suggest that many PhD students lack a clear vision of their future. Nearly 75% of respondents said that they would like a job in academia as an option after they graduate, whereas 55% said that they would like to work in industry. That might partly be down to indecision: nearly half of respondents indicated that they were likely or very likely to pursue a career in either sector.

The strong interest in academia echoes findings from the 2015 survey in which 78% of respondents said that they were likely or very likely to pursue a career in academia despite a lack of job opportunities. The dearth was highlighted in an analysis published in 2015 (N. Ghaffarzadegan et alSyst. Res. Behav. Sci. 234024052015), which estimated that in the United States, there are on average 6.3 PhD graduates in biomedical sciences for every tenure-track academic job opening.

Doctoral studies don’t seem to be prompting large numbers of students to rethink their commitment to research. Nearly 80% said that the likelihood that they will pursue a research career has grown or remained unchanged since they launched their PhD programme — up from 67% in the 2015 survey.

With an already tough academic job market getting tougher, many hopefuls will need guidance. But that’s not always easy to come by. Only 15% of respondents said that they found useful career resources at their institution, down from 18% in the 2015 survey.

To a large extent, students are serving as their own career counsellors. When asked how they arrived at their current career decision, almost two-thirds chalked it up at least in part to their own research on the topic. Just 34% credited advice from their adviser.

Laying some groundwork with an adviser early on can go a long way towards improving the PhD experience, Proppe says. After leaving Princeton for Toronto, he immediately had a direct talk with Sargent, his new adviser. “I asked all of the questions I wished I had asked when I first started graduate school,” he says. By the end of the conversation, he had a good idea about how the lab operated, how often he’d see his adviser and how much supervision he could expect.

Alberto Brandl, a student in aerospace engineering at the Polytechnic Institute of Turin in Italy, knew his co-supervisors before he started his PhD programme. “I hoped they would be great mentors, and I’m very satisfied,” he says. It helped that his advisers were very accommodating when his daughter was born, early in the PhD process. “They said it was a beautiful thing,” he says. “I didn’t take much time off, but they told me to take as much as I needed.” He feels that his advisers give him just enough guidance to make his own decisions, instead of dictating every step. “It’s the difference between a boss and a leader,” he says. Brandl counts himself fortunate. “I know people who have abandoned their PhDs because of their mentors.”

Survey responses can only go so far, and sometimes there’s a deeper story beneath the data. Yissue Woo, a microbiologist at the Singapore Centre for Environmental Life Sciences Engineering, gave his adviser high marks, but says that he and his supervisor have had no career-related discussions. For now, Woo is too preoccupied with his studies and research to broach the subject with his adviser.

“I’m not new to research, so I’m not surprised by setbacks. When things don’t work, I know that’s just how it is.”

He also rated his PhD experience highly, but that’s partly because he’s learnt to take failures in stride. “I’m not new to research,” he says, “so I’m not surprised by setbacks. When things don’t work, I know that’s just how it is.”

Perhaps one student, who studies medicine in Israel, summarized it best. “Doing a PhD is hard and frustrating,” wrote the student in the comment section. “But the small successes are worth it all.”

https://cheekyscientist.com/top-10-list-of-alternative-careers-for-phd-science-graduates/

Written by Arunodoy Sur, Ph.D.

A postdoc was not for me.

I knew this well before graduating.

I simply did not want to pursue a tenure track position.

Too many postdocs and assistant professors I knew were too miserable for me to ever want to be one of them.

I wanted to explore options for alternative careers instead but my University provided me with no resources for doing so.

It was very surprising to see how little the University knew about transitioning into non-academic careers.

It was also surprising to see how limited the University’s network was outside of academia.

To make matters worse, I was an international student.

As such, immigration laws required me to be formally employed in less than 90 days from my graduation.

Three months is not a lot of time to find a job.  

I did not have the luxury of spending half a year on a job search after graduation, let alone taking a break for a few months and then starting my job search.

To get more information about career options, I started asking other science PhDs and postdoctoral researchers about their career plans.

Many of these students and postdocs said they were also interested in an industry career.

But, oddly enough, they had chosen to only apply for postdoc positions.

Why?

A Postdoc Is Not Your Only Career Option

Most PhDs transition into an academic postdoc, even when they would rather transition into an industry position, because they believe a postdoc is their only option.

Their academic advisor and the entire academic system has led them to believe this is their only option.

What does this mean?

It means the reason most PhDs do not get PhD jobs in industry is because they lack the information they need to get these jobs.

They also lack information on which non-academic career options are available to them and which of these positions fit their goals and lifestyle.

If you’re a PhD or postdoc, it’s crucial for you to understand all the opportunities you have in front of you.

You need to gain in depth knowledge of all the career tracks available to you, not just one or two.

You should also pay close attention to changing trends, making sure to note which job sectors are rising and which are falling.

Science Related Jobs | Cheeky Scientist | Alternative Careers For Scientists
10 Top Non-Academic Jobs Alternative For STEM PhDs

Gain a thorough understanding of your career options.

Otherwise, you will be forced by circumstances to take a position that is not in alignment with your long-term career goals.

To avoid this fate, we’ve collated a list of the top 10 hottest non-academic jobs.

Understanding which industry positions are on the rise will help you see what’s available to you outside of a traditional postdoc or professorship.

There are many alternative career options available to STEM PhDs.

It will also help you make an intelligent decision on which positions you would enjoy and which you may not enjoy.

When choosing the next step in your career, be sure to consider not only the title and salary you want to have, but the lifestyle you want to live.

Don’t make the mistake of chasing something that will ultimately make you miserable.

This is how many PhDs ended up in poor and unhappy postdoc positions in the first place.

Here are 10 top non-academic careers for PhDs to consider applying to…

1. Market Research Analyst

Marker Research Analyst roles exist in most industries, but they are especially significant in innovation-based sectors such as electronics, IT or biotechnology.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics this profession is projected to experience a job growth of 20% from 2004 to 2014.

Market research analysts are expected to gain a complete understanding of the commercial landscape associated with a specific technology or sector.

A PhD’s ability to analyze large amounts of information and identify comparative advantages between two technologies is very valuable to this role.

As a Market Research Analyst, your responsibilities include gaining information about commercialization opportunities as well as evaluating the key advantages and disadvantages of your products versus competitor products.

You will apply this information and your technical expertise to create reports that outline key niches for commercialization, estimate market size, identify current major players in the sector and recognize prospective future competitors.

Your reports will act as essential tools that administrative teams will use to plan an ideal commercialization path, thereby avoiding pitfalls and maximizing revenues. 

Since Market Research Analysts provide key market information and collaborate with strategic decision-maker, this role can open up doors to higher management positions.

As innovation based industries grow and continue to globalize, there will be an increasing demand for science PhDs in Market Research roles.

2. Business Development Manager

A recent career survey by CNN Money found that Business Development Managers, or BDMs, ranked in the top 100 careers worldwide with a projected growth rate of 16.4%.

The name of this role might suggest that it’s only for professionals with a business degree.

But, nowadays, science PhDs are being increasingly hired as BDMs.  

This is because many PhDs excel at understanding complex technologies, which is crucial to technology-based sectors such as biotechnology, software, consumer electronics, and pharmaceuticals.

A BDM’s key responsibilities include developing new business opportunities, managing existing products, developing market strategies, and building new business partnerships.

As a BDM, you will have to prioritize innovative products based on market needs and competitor positioning.

Thorough knowledge of not only a company’s technology, but its culture and products is key to this role.

BDMs are required to use a combination of scientific knowledge, analytical skills and market trends to forecast things like revenues, profits, and losses.

Your presentation and teaching skills are also valuable to this position because BDMs are expected to present to management and marketing teams regularly.

3. Competitive Intelligence Analyst

Competitive Intelligence (CI) Analysts main role is to gather information about products that are in a competing company’s pipeline and analyzing these products to determine how they will affect the market.

A Global Intelligence Alliance survey of global software, healthcare, pharmaceutical, financial, energy and manufacturing found that the hiring of CI analysts will increase dramatically in the coming years, with 60% of hiring managers reporting that they are actively looking for candidates.

As a CI Analyst, you will turn information about your competition into actionable intelligence for your company.

You will be required to gather information from key opinion leaders (KOLs), intelligence databases, scientific conferences and online resources.

These inputs will be used to determine both threats or opportunities in the market.

CI Analysts play a critical role in supporting a company’s management team in making strategic marketing decisions.

PhDs have already have many of the skills required for this role, including strong scientific and technical knowledge, strong information gathering skills, and the ability to analyze large data sets.

CI Analyst positions often act as a gateway to higher executive positions as these Analysts already contribute to a company’s executive decision-making.

CI Analyst positions are abundant in not only technology-based companies, but also inn specialized CI firms that are dedicated to offering CI services to a wide range of clients.

4. Product Manager

Product Managers (PMs) are responsible for managing the entire life-cycle of an innovative product.

They oversee the development of a product and the management of product after it launches.

An employment survey conducted between 2012 and 2013 found that the demand for Product Managers in technology-based sectors is increasing by 23% annually.

PMs are responsible for analyzing a product’s market performance as well as determining ways to boost a product’s commercial success while simultaneously determining how to phase out or terminate older versions of the product.

PM roles are multifunctional and demand collaboration spread across multiple divisions of an organization.

As a PM, you must be able to quickly identify market needs, communicate those needs with your marketing team, and find innovative solutions for these needs.

You must also possess a unique blend of business acumen and creativity. Successful PMs are able to envision new products and clearly understand the competitive landscape of their market.

PM roles are available for PhDs in most technology-based sectors, including electronics, aeronautics, IT and software, and of course, biotechnology and pharmaceutical sectors.

5. Management Consulting

Ten years ago, most consulting firms only employed MBAs.

Things have changed.

Thanks to the steady rise of technology-based business sectors, there has been a significant increase in the number of science PhDs being hired by these firms.

According to a Bloomberg Business report, the consulting market is expected to experience an overall annual growth rate of 3.7%.

The same report stated that the management consulting market recently grew by 8.5% to a total value of $39.3 billion.

STEM PhDs are in high demand for consulting positions because they have a strong technical background and are specifically trained troubleshooting difficult problems.

Many PhDs fail to pursue Management Consulting positions because they believe that these positions require extensive industry experience. This is not true.

Even the most reputed global consulting firms have specialized job opportunities for PhDs.

As a Management Consultant, you will be required to leverage your problem solving skills. You will also be required to design unique strategies for overcoming these problems.

Management consultants must be able to work in collaborative “teamwork” environments where communication and leadership skills are crucial.

You must be able to present your findings both orally in PowerPoint presentations and in written form through detailed reports.

A key advantage of securing a Management Consultant position is that it will open doors for a variety of opportunities including executive management, venture capitalism, and entrepreneurship.

6. Quantitative Analyst

There are many opportunities for science PhDs to transition into Quantitative Analyst (QAs).

Most of QA positions are available in major financial institutions involved in financial trading.

A report by Recruiter showed that over the last 10 years, employment opportunities for QAs in the U.S. have grown by 29%.

A similar report based on U.S. labor statistics showed QA positions will grow by 20% through 2018.

QA responsibilities include quantitative data analysis, financial research, statistical modeling, and pattern recognition—all related to predicting trades.

Science PhD with backgrounds in “quant” related disciplines such as Mathematics, Statistics, Physics, Engineering, and Computer Science are highly sought after for these positions.

However, many Life Science PhDs are also being hired as QAs. This is due to increases in financial trading in the biotechnology industry.

Science PhDs continue to be preferred by QA firms because of their proven ability to conduct independent research and their detailed understanding of the scientific aspects of technology-based sectors.

As a QA, you will be expected to have a strong scientific background and to be able to work under pressure with little supervision.

You will also be required to gain deep financial knowledge of your markets and be able to grasp advanced mathematical concepts quickly.

7. Medical Communication Specialist

Medical Communication Specialists are broadly described as technical writers involved in the development and production of communication medical and healthcare related materials.

A Bureau of Labor Statistics report shows that Medical Communication Specialist positions are expected to grow by 15% between now and 2022.

As a Medical Communication Specialist, your responsibilities will include writing and editing materials that healthcare organizations will use to communicate with patients, clients and medical professionals.

You must be able to organize, edit, and present information in a manner appropriate for your target audience.

Medical Communication Specialists must also possess excellent written communication skills and have a strong understanding of the ethical or regulatory guidelines in their field.

The main reason for this is that Medical Communication Specialists often work to produce a variety of documents, including patient education brochures, Web content, physician articles, sales training materials and regulatory documents.

8. Healthcare Information Technology Specialist

In 2009, the US government enacted the Health Information Technology for Economic and Clinical Health Act (HITECH Act).

According to this new government initiative, there is a massive push for adoption of healthcare technology by healthcare providers.

One of the major criteria of this act is to convert all healthcare related data into an electronic format.

This has made the role of Healthcare Information Technology (HIT) Specialist one of the fastest growing jobs.

A recent HIT Specialist related survey reported that there were a total of 434,282 HIT-related job postings between 2007 and 2011.

As a HIT Specialist, you will be responsible for organizing patients’ medical record into electronic databases, verifying patients’ medical charts, and communicating with physicians to ensure the accuracy of their diagnoses.

Science PhDs who are trained in Life Science fields and have experience with online databases such as Genomics and Bioinformatics are highly sought after for this position.

You must have a strong background in medical research as well as medical terminology.

You must also be willing to learn about medical coding, information technology, clinical database management, and medical billing.

Hospitals, ambulatory healthcare services, clinical research centers, academic research institutions, and health insurance providers are the main sources of employment for HIT Specialists.

9. Operations Research Analyst

Operations Research Analysts are responsible for investigating complex issues, identifying and solving operational problems and facilitating a more cost-effective and efficient functioning of an organization.

In short, these Analysts are very high-level problem solvers. Their job is to systemize organizations as efficiently and effectively as possible.

Operations Research Analysts were first implemented by the military a few decades ago but now they are used in almost every sector.

The demand of this role has increased investments in big data analytics platforms.

Job reports show that Operations Research Analyst positions are estimated to grow by 27% per year until 2022, making it one of the hottest jobs of the next decade.

As an Operations Research Analyst, you must be able to use data mining techniques, mathematical modeling, and statistical analyses to provide real-time operational guidance to large biotechnology and biopharmaceutical companies.

STEM PhDs with academic training in Mathematics, Statistics, Computational Modeling, and Data Mining are highly sought after for these positions.

Although a bachelor’s degree is often mentioned as the minimum qualification in Operations Research Analyst job postings, graduate degree holders are heavily favored.

10. Medical Science Liaison

Becoming a Medical Science Liaison (MSL) is a rapidly growing opportunity for STEM PhDs.

A recent McKinsey & Company report found that MSL roles will continue to increase rapidly through 2020. The same report also showed that advanced degree holders with a strong scientific background will be hired more and more for these roles.

A international recruiting survey found that MSL positions have increased by over 38% and is one of the fastest growing, science-related jobs in the world.

MSL positions can be found in a variety of healthcare-based sectors including pharmaceutical, biotechnology, medical device sectors.

The biggest misconception regarding MSL positions is that it is a sales position. This is not true.

In reality, MSLs act as scientifically trained field personnel who are considered to be part of a company’s medical staff. Most MSLs are not even allowed to discuss drug prices or conduct sales.

This provides MSLs with more freedom to learn and teach. As a result, they gain a deeper knowledge of therapeutic areas and are able to discuss detailed medical and scientific issues with physicians.

As an MSL, one of your key responsibilities is to build rapport with KOLs in various therapeutic research areas.

You must have extensive clinical or medical knowledge and, at the same time, be a “people-person.”

Strong communication skills are important but you must also be able to work independently and travel extensively.

Twenty years ago, MSLs were selected from experienced sales representatives that had strong scientific backgrounds. This has changed. Now, PhDs with relevant scientific knowledge are often hired.

Currently PhDs with medical knowledge have a significant advantage in finding employment.

However, MSL positions are highly competitive with only 1-2% of applicants getting hired.

You can make yourself a more competitive candidate for these positions by first taking a Clinical Research Associate (CRA) position.

A PhD combined with CRA experience is considered by industry experts as the best way to prepare yourself for an MSL position.

The two most important lessons you will learn by searching for an alternative career is that there are several jobs available to you and other PhDs outside of academia. You do not have to do a postdoc or continue doing a postdoc. The key is that you must work to change your situation. In order to secure your ideal industry position, you must prepare yourself by gathering as much information about alternative career options for science graduates as possible. You must also begin to grow your non-academic network. Only then will you be able to transition into the non-academic career of your choice.

To learn more about transitioning into industry, including instant access to our exclusive training videos, case studies, industry insider documents, transition plan, and private online network, get on the wait list for the Cheeky Scientist Association. 

https://www.npr.org/sections/ed/2017/11/14/563130814/heres-how-the-new-tax-plan-could-hurt-graduate-students

The new tax plan introduced by House Republicans could have negative implications for universities, graduate students and those with student loans.

Many grad students — especially in Ph.D. programs — receive tuition waivers in exchange for teaching classes or doing research. Under current law, that money isn’t taxed as income. But the new bill calls for those tuition waivers to be counted as income and subjected to income taxes.

That means graduate students would be paying taxes on money they never receive.

Kelly Balmes is finishing up a master’s degree — on her way to a Ph.D. — in atmosphere and sciences at the University of Washington in Seattle.

Balmes, 24, is from Chicago, so her out-of-state tuition is $30,000 a year. It’s paid for through grants; money she never sees.

The university pays her a yearly stipend of about $30,000 in exchange for her work in research and as a teaching assistant. That’s considered minimum wage in Seattle — about $15 an hour.

In 2016, she paid income taxes on her teaching stipend and ended up owing the government $2,334.

If the tax bill passes, the grant that covers tuition will be viewed as additional income. If the numbers remain the same, Balmes’ total income before deductions becomes $61,398 — nearly double what she filed last year.

She would owe $7,488, about $5,000 more.

“This makes graduate school unattainable for anybody not already very well off,” Balmes says. “It also creates a diversity problem, which graduate STEM programs already have.”

What else will be affected if the bill is passed:

  1. Endowments: The bill would levy a tax of 1.4 percent on net investment income for well-endowed private colleges. After an outcry from some universities, the language was adjusted so the tax would apply only to well-endowed colleges with $250,000 or more in the bank per full-time student.
  2. Student loan interest, tuition reductions and education assistance: If you make less than $80,000 and are paying back your student loans, you will no longer be able to deduct up to $2,500. Also, employers who cover some of their employees’ college costs would have that money taxed.
  3. College tax credit consolidation:Three tax credits — American opportunity tax credit, lifetime learning credit and Hope scholarship credit — would be consolidated into one credit. This would include a $2,000 credit for families spending money on college tuition, books and supplies.
  4. Coverdell Education Savings Accounts: The bill would phase out Coverdell Education Savings Accounts, which allow families to invest money for college without the funds being taxed.
  5. Tax bills for death and disability:The House plan would put an end to forgiving student debt because of death or disability.

Of the 145,000 students in graduate programs receiving these tuition waivers, about 60 percent are in STEM programs, according to the Department of Education.

If the House bill passes, Balmes might have to reconsider getting her Ph.D. and stop her education at a master’s, she says. “It’s upsetting because it wouldn’t really be my decision.”

She hopes that the Senate’s tax plan will be passed instead because under that one there are no changes to tax credits or tuition waivers.

Colleges and universities have also raised concerns about the House bill.

Carnegie Mellon University, a private school in Pittsburgh known for programs in science and technology, is one of the many schools — including Boston University — speaking out.

CMU sent faculty an email saying it was monitoring how the bill would impact students and faculty.

“Any provision that would make higher education more costly for students, effectively reducing access, will harm American families and undermine the mission of higher education and CMU,” wrote interim President Farnam Jahanian. “That includes proposals to tax graduate student stipends, eliminate tax deductions for student loans, or reduce incentives for employers to contribute to tuition.”

He said there are long-term benefits to investing in graduate students.

“The education we provide undergraduates and graduate students is one of the most powerful engines for their future success and ability to contribute to society.”