Does Your dissertation matter for industry research jobs?

The answer to this question, as you might have already guessed, is “yes” and “no.” But let’s step back first and speak to the fact that you have actually completed a dissertation, no matter what the topic might have been.

This, in itself is a saleable feature, whether your topic very specifically relates to the industry niche in which you are seeking employment or not. Then we can step forward again and speak to that dissertation itself, and the details of that project which make you saleable more attractive (or not).

Employers Want Smart People

The types of positions for which you will apply as a candidate with a Ph.D. and a dissertation under your belt, will not be basic entry-level positions that require, for example, a Bachelor’s degree. And if you are applying for such positions, because the job market is tough, understand that most employers will be hesitant to seriously consider you unless they may have a future for someone with your background and qualifications.

The reason is simple:  Should a position open somewhere else which is applicable to one of your background, you will leave for that position.

But, if employers are looking for candidates to enter their R&D or project fulfillment departments, then they are looking for Ph.D.’s. Rather than focus on your dissertation, they will first be looking for the following:

  1. Smart people with a proven record of conducting solid research
  2. Smart people who can work independently
  3. Smart people who can work as members of teams
  4. Smart people who have a strong work ethic and perseverance
  5. Smart people who have the ability to synthesize and evaluate research results in order to draw appropriate conclusions

Anyone who has completed a Ph.D. program and a dissertation will meet most all of these criteria, so your actual dissertation topic may be immaterial to this employer. You will sell yourself during the interview process.

When Dissertation Topics Really Do Matter

Your dissertation topic and research question will matter only if they relate to specific research that a specific company in the industry is conducting. For example, if your dissertation in the field of biogenetic engineering has focused on Lupus, and your research has moved the field toward isolation of the gene that cause Lupus, then somewhere out there is a biomedical research firm that either has ongoing R&D on Lupus or is considering that as a new research thrust. Obviously, you will be a “hot” commodity there.

The key for you will be to find those research companies and to put yourself “front and center” in their lines of sight. Under these circumstances, you should not wait for a position opening to be announced. You submit your materials, along with access to your dissertation, so that your research may be reviewed (being certain, of course, that you have the proper copyrights).

There does not have to be a specific opening. R&D firms hire at any time, if the candidate can bring substantial value to the organization.

When Dissertation Topics Really Do Not Matter

Most dissertation topics and research will not matter if they are more than 5 years old. The research is “ancient history,” and no one will really be interested. What will be of interest to a potential employer, however, is what you have accomplished since that time. This will be of significantly greater value.

Dissertation topics and research will not matter if they are not in any specified field of current research being conducted within an organization’s R&D department. However, if your more general field of degree and research is relevant and you possess the qualities stated above, then you are definitely a viable candidate.

You never know where opportunity may lie, and you have nothing to lose by putting your applicant material “out there” to any number of organizations, whether they are looking for someone with your specificity or not. As long as the industry relates to what you have done, you should submit your credentials. The worst response you will get is a “no,” and then you just move one!

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