Career

4 Reasons Why You Should Not Quit Your PhD To Go Into Science Communication

A no-bullshit argument for why you should not give up your PH.D. Program
4 Reasons Why You Should Not Quit Your PhD To Go Into Science Communication
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In: Career

Are you considering giving up your PhD to pursue a career in science communication?

While it may seem like a tempting option, there are important factors to consider before making such a decision.

Even if it takes you a few more years, completing your PhD may eventually benefit your career in science communication.

So before you make any rash decisions, read on to learn more about why you should think twice before giving up your PhD.

Reason 1: You’ll get paid more for your PhD

Yep, money matters.

Your PhD will for sure increase your salary when you find a job in science communication.

Another reason to complete your PhD is that you may have a better chance of getting a job in science communication than with just an MSc.

PR agencies and large companies like to buy expertise, and it’s not uncommon to see a “PhD required” in a job advert.

So it might be worth the effort!

Reason 2: You don’t have a portfolio

Let’s get this out of the way: writing your thesis is not a science communication experience.

It’s a thesis, and it’s pure science.

Stop using it as an argument to get a job in science communication.

Go write the real thing: science articles, press releases, reports, whatever, but not that damn thesis.

Here's a dirty little secret from someone who's skimmed through hundreds of applications from PhDs dreaming of a career as a science journalist:

They've all written a thesis!

So there's absolutely nothing to differentiate what they've done.

Make yourself stand out.

Volunteer at a science publication and start building up your experience (you can send them drafts or a polished pitch and see what they say).

And please don’t expect to be paid until you have some real experience (especially with small publications).

Or start a blog and post regularly.

Science communication is tough, and many depressed graduate students find solace in the idea of becoming a writer.

So get ahead of the competition and start writing now.

Reason 3: Science communication is not for you

Spending 4 years on experiments that never seem to work can be hard on the psyche.

Having to spend all your weekends and free time in the lab doesn’t help.

A study on 4608 postgraduate researchers in the UK found that most of them agreed that developing a mental health problem during their PhD was 'the norm'.

More than a third of them (35.8%) had even considered quitting and/or taking a break from their studies because of poor mental health, and over 14% of them actually stopped because of mental health problems.

I know, a PhD is tough and can make you question your motivation to stay in the lab.

But that alone is not a good reason to go into science communication.

If you quit your PhD just because of the stress, you should take a break, get help and consider your options.

If you have never written a line outside of your dissertation, science communication is not the answer to your problem.

On the other hand, if writing has always been an irrepressible passion, you should definitely switch to a career that fulfills your expectations.

Reason 4: You can use the downtime

Running lab experiments doesn’t require your full-time attention.

There are times when cell cultures have to grow on their own, times when you have to wait for the machine to be available.

This is your chance!

Use this time to gain experience.

If your goal is to get out of the lab anyway, be strategic about your efforts.

Do the work to finish your thesis, but don’t spend your time trying to be the best scientist in the world.

Instead, go write something, start a blog, and make connections in the science communication field.

That’s where you’re heading; don’t waste your energy on another pursuit.

If you do this consistently throughout your PhD, you'll end up with a lot of writing experience and a badass degree.

Trust me, the competition won't stand a chance.


So, should you quit your PhD?

Look, if you really want a career in science communication and you can't spend another second in a lab, then go for it.

I'm not going to stop anyone from living their dream.

But I've seen so many people drop out of their PhD programs only to find that science communication is sometimes just as competitive as academia (and just as badly paid).

Quitting your PhD to pursue a career in science communication may seem like an attractive option, but think carefully about the consequences.

Completing your PhD may actually be your best opportunity to start a career in science communication.

You are essentially being paid to learn science, which will be extremely useful in your future career as a science communicator.

Oh, and if you are not getting paid during your PhD, GET THE HELL OUT OF THIS NOW.

This is definitely a reason to quit without looking back.

Otherwise, consider sticking around for a few more years and using that time to become a great science communicator.

Written by
Joachim Eeckhout
Over the past decade, I have specialized in science communication and marketing while building a successful biotech media company. Now, I'm sharing what I've learned with you on The Science Marketer.
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