Academia vs. Industry

For new doctoral graduates, one of the biggest questions that comes to mind on a career is whether they want to go into Academia or Industry. Both have their significant advantages and disadvantages. But, it really depends on the certain scientist in what he or she is looking for in their wanted career path. Some may want the lure of tenure in academia. Others might want the higher salary in an industry position. We will go over a few different categories in terms of employment in Industry and Academia. We can look at the pros and cons of both of those in each category. In the end, it must be up to you to decide which fits best with the values you hold in a career.


Academia vs Industry

  • Research Freedom
  • Opportunity
  • Salary
  • Impact
  • Job Security


Research Freedom

One of the most important parts of a career is the research you’re doing. This is what you went to university for years to be able to do. Whichever area you decide to go into, the research you do is most likely imperative to your career goals. Academia allows you to be part of the research you’ve always wanted to do. There can be more freedom if you choose to do so, from setting your own schedule, to deciding what experiments you wish to run. There’s also a larger possibility you can run your own lab.

In Industry, your research type is decided by the company you’re working for. This is not necessarily a bad thing, as it gives you a niche to apply yourself in your research. Yet, it is also possible to apply for companies that fit the research you wish to do. Many companies in Industry as well have PostDoc positions available. This way, you are allowable to continue your research while receiving funding from those companies rather than a university. It’s a unique way to continue research while giving you the freedom to do the science that you wish to do.



I will attempt to stay neutral in my comparisons as best as possible. However, Industry has a hand over fist advantage of Academia. With STEM industries booming, having a Ph.D. in one of the sciences is helpful when finding a career in Industry. There are many other opportunities as well in it. Even if you don’t get lab work, it is possible to find a position in another job sector such as Sales or Consulting. Industry has many career options for a wide variety of companies and corporations.

While opportunity does exist in Academia, of course, there are many hoops one must jump through. Tenure is an option for a professor in Academia, however, the route to get there is long, and many don’t get to it. Although it is possible, it is quite an arduous venture. An important prerequisite for many opportunities in Academia, which differs slightly from Industry, is the papers you’ve contributed to while at University. The most important thing is the value that your academic research has added to the scientific community.  In addition, which journals it has been published in is even more important as well when searching for a career. It’s imperative to keep this in mind when you’re looking for a career in Academia.



As much as it pains to say, the world runs on money. Many people have said that, for a successful career, you should look for fulfillment rather than a salary to be happy in your work. Although that is true to a point, it is important to also look at wages from a neutral perspective. In this category, Industry seems to have the upper hand again. Companies are in the business of making money, no pun intended. And, a starting salary is significantly higher, depending on the company of course. As well, hard work and dedication can allow you to be promoted up through the management chain, of which comes an increased salary. This is not to say that Academia is lackluster with salary. However, it is the more intangible benefits to Academia that many choose it. And, we will go into more about that below.

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This is where Academia gets the leg up over Industry. When an academic paper that you’ve contributed to gets published, there will be recognition for your performance in helping publish that paper. This increase in respect is why many people choose to go into Academia. With successful research and publications, you can become quite prominent in the scientific and academic communities. In addition, going into Academia means you have the opportunity to influence the next generation of students. Some professors love this ability to have an impact on students, and it is one of the main reasons they might look for a professorship in Academia.

Yet still, Industry has its own impact, in a way. This impact is more monetary based. If you create a successful product or service, your business will become more profitable and lucrative. The recognition of this success will most likely be measured in a pay raise or a promotion. However, this might be less so than in Academia, and the recognition doesn’t usually extend outside of the company itself. So, it is one thing to keep in mind depending on your level of want for some kind of impact and recognition in your career.


Job Security

Having a good career is important for a happy life. What’s even more imperative is maintaining that career. Job security is towards the end of most peoples’ list for what they wish for in their dream career. But, it is one of the most crucial aspects of a successful career. For Academia, if you’re tenured, your job security is completely assured. However, only around 1% of postdocs ever become tenured. Your job security is determined by your ability to acquire grant money for your research if you’re not tenured. If you can keep gaining grant money during each cycle, you will have job security. If not, it may be in jeopardy.

Industry has lesser job security, unfortunately. Companies like to make money as said previously. And, if you, as an employee, are seen more of a liability than an asset, it is possible you could be let go. This is not meant to scare, but it is an important reminder that your work ethic matters. This, in a sense, is a motivator as you are likely to work more earnestly if your employment is on the line. It is still a good idea to judge which works for you in terms of job security.


So, in the end, what’s the best market for you to go into: Academia or Industry? Impossible to say, honestly, as it depends on what you want in your ideal career. Are you someone who values a higher paycheck and opportunity? Then maybe Industry is best for you. Do you value job security and want to make an impact on the scientific community? Then your best bet might be Academia. Whichever one you choose, we hope this blog post can give you better clarity on the pros and cons of each. With a career being a key to happiness, you must find the right career to fit what you value in life, whatever that might be.

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