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Postdoc pay/ careers outside research

Laurel S. Bernstein lbernstein at isisph.com
Tue May 2 12:33:14 EST 1995

In article <rachelg-2904951512370001 at b013-brahma.stanford.edu> rachelg at cmgm.stanford.edu (Rachel Gerstein) writes:
>From: rachelg at cmgm.stanford.edu (Rachel Gerstein)
>Subject: Re: Postdoc pay
>Date: Sat, 29 Apr 1995 15:12:37 -0800

>In article <lbernstein.60.12E0AC62 at isisph.com>, lbernstein at isisph.com
>(Laurel S. Bernstein) wrote:

>> And don't forget that some places don't even pay NIH scale. I postdoc'd at a 
>> well-respected private institute  (not Salk, the one down the road from 
>> there!) and was paid several thousand below NIH scale. That stunned me- I 
>> thought NIH was bare minimum and most places supplemented it.
>> I should mention that this was *not* the reason I left research 4 yr ago, but 
>> incidentally in doing so I doubled my salary overnight and am now making 3x 
>> what I made as a postdoc. But since I am infinitely happier (still in
>> just not at the bench) the money is just icing on the cake.
>> Laurel

>Hey Laurel

>What is your job description and how/why did you decide to get out of
>bench work? It would be informative to hear what alternatives are out
>Rachel Gerstein

Since several of you have emailed me, I guess I'll post a little more info 
about my work (heaven knows nobody teaches students or postdocs anything 
about what their options are outside of research and teaching, so I'm glad 
to give a little info if I can). I'm a patent agent at a biotech company.  To 
become a patent agent you must pass the patent bar exam (the same exam an 
attorney has to take to be a patent attorney). To even take the exam you must 
have a technical degree, and a BS/BA in biology or chemistry is acceptable, as 
are certain others, or equivalent credit hours. You have to write well and be 
able to communicate well in this field, and be able to cope with deadlines, 
often multiple ones. Many research institutes and universities have a patent 
or intellectual property dept, where you might be able to stop in and see what 
they do if you're interested. I was lucky enough to find a job in a small, 
young company before I had taken the exam- a bigger organization might be more 
particular about credentials. But I've been thriving here and the decision to 
leave research was the best thing I could have done. It took me a couple of 
years of agonizing to reach that point though- partly because I'd been trained 
(Ivy league PhD, 2 postdocs) that I *should want* a research career. Listen, 
there are plenty of ways to do science, and that's only one. I've said it many 
times- Leaving the Bench is Not Necessarily Leaving Science. I talk science 
all day long, and on diverse topics, as opposed to my narrow little niche in 
research, where I was discouraged from attending seminars outside my research 
area. I can't say it'll be easy (the job market is not great in biotech) but 
for me, there's no question that it was the right move. 
   One way to find out what else is out there is to get your CV ready first 
and just send it out to anything you are qualified for, without thinking too 
much about whether it's the perfect thing for you. Then go on any interview 
you get, and interview the heck out of *them*- find out what the job is, what 
they do, etc. Ask all kinds of questions- what can you lose? And then, with 
the new information you have, you can decide if you'd like that type of job.  
Having said that, I should say that, while this was my approach,serendipity 
was in my favor and I got this job before I went on any other interviews... so 
take it with a grain of salt. But I still think it was the right approach for 
me- I might not even have applied for this job if I had thought too much about 
it- I had no experience with patents, this is a longer commute than I'd like, 
etc etc etc- instead I just sent  in my CV. Then at the interview, things 
really clicked and I decided I wanted the job if they offered it. Definitely 
no regrets.
  Good luck to the career-seekers out there. Hope this helps.

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