What Kind of Careers Necessitate a PhD?

Career & Internship

What Kind of Careers Necessitate a PhD?


The short answer is, you need a PhD to be trusted to make decisions. As a synthetic chemistry professor has pointed out, "with a Bachelors you will be making molecules, with a PhD you will be deciding which molecules to make." Simply put, the PhD gives credibility in managing projects and making decisions in technological research and development careers.


Your experiences may show that you are smart, but the PhD is an unmistakable signal that gives you a credit of trust when applying for technical jobs. Additionally, be very aware that any such job requires a specific training, and companies will prioritize hiring people who have previously accomplished work related to their subjects. For example, talking to a NanoSolar recruiter recently, I have gained the most respect not from credentials, but from having done solar cell performance modeling, the exact process they do in-company. Jobs in technical consulting, analytics and finance seem to be always available to both Masters and PhD grads, with general problem-solving skills emphasized greatly in the hiring process.


The standalone Masters degree, while prevalent in engineering (Electrical, Mechanical, Computer Science), and reportedly giving a relative bonus in salary, is virtually absent in the hard sciences (Biology, Chemistry, Physics). The latter sometimes give a Master's degree en route to a PhD, with the option to leave being immediately available. This is markedly different in Europe, where the undergraduate is shorter and a separate Masters is required before the PhD.