So You Don't Want to Be an Academic: What Are Your Options?

You have completed your graduate program, and now it’s time for you to look for a job. You know that you don’t want to be an academic forever, but what other options are out there? After being in academia for many years, you may feel overwhelmed by all the employment options in the professional world, and finding a nonacademic job may seem daunting. However, you can simplify your job search in the professional world by knowing the difference between private and public industry. Below is an explanation of these two types of nonacademic industries.

Private Industry

Private industry generally refers to commercial industry and comprises many types of jobs from the science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) fields, including business, finance, information technologies, etc. Private industry definitely has a lot of positive things to offer as far as employment is concerned: more available jobs, more money at those jobs, and more job security. However, private industry also requires more office time and has more individual responsibility than do jobs in the public sector. In the private sector, profit motivates everything. If you like tangible, well-defined goals and timelines, all of which are based on the quickest way to make the most profit, then you might like a job in private industry. However, if you prefer to move at your own pace and to base your work on something other than profit, then a job in this type of industry may not be for you.

Public Industry

Public industry generally refers to government jobs and comprises many types of jobs, such as teaching, healthcare, social work, and public administration. In the public sector, the number of available jobs is dictated by government spending; therefore, fewer positions are available in public industry than in other sectors. Competition for these limited positions is fierce, especially when members of the government increase their efforts to reduce government spending. Any major reduction in government spending can threaten job security in public industry. However, jobs in the public sector do have many positive aspects: (a) the salary is comparable to that in the private sector; (b) many employers in the public sector offer reliable and affordable options for childcare and healthcare, a variety of work options (part time, full time, telecommute), and plenty of vacation time (most major holidays); and (c) many employers in the public sector provide training opportunities that could lead to promotions, especially because employers in public industry prefer to promote from within their organizations.

Choosing Between Private and Public Industry

When you are trying to choose between working in academia or industry, you must consider yourself before you consider anything else. What is your own work personality like? What do you value in a position? Once you answer these questions for yourself, you should answer the same for the industry that seems to fit best with your personality and values. Before you definitively decide on either the public and private industry, you should further develop your sense of commercial awareness about that industry and familiarize yourself with specific companies in that industry. Developing commercial awareness about these two industries, and familiarizing yourself with specific companies will not only help you write your CV or resume but also will improve your chances of securing a long-term job that you actually enjoy.

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