# Social Sciences: Academia & Industry – On the Edge of Two Worlds

Academia and industry are are often defined as two conflicting worlds. However, these two worlds can complement and learn from one another. In this article, I will present my experience working on the edge of academia and industry and enjoying both equally.

In addition, I will focus on the social sciences and the career prospective of the young bachelor or master graduates while taking into account the broad international context.

In order to talk about working in academia, we must agree on a common definition. I assume that it means – doing research on daily basis – i.e. going through the stages of literature review, hypotheses deduction and testing, writing and communication the results. Invariably most of the time, the researcher must also teach and supervise, peer-review others work, write grants applications and present their findings (e.g. at the conferences). However, I believe that the one, most distinct characteristic of working in academia is carrying out the research activities for the sake of advancing the knowledge in one particular area and making it accessible to other researchers and the public without receiving direct financial remuneration. It is widely assumed that the currency in academia is number and quality of publications, grants and supervised students.

Usually, to get into academia, one must poses a research doctorate – equivalent of PhD in most countries. It is rather a difficult task, for example in the USA in 2009-2010, there were around . In social sciences, so in total almost 12 years if taking into account studying for the B.A. first. Moreover, in social sciences, a post-doc position would earn an annual salary of 40’000$which compares rather poorly with an average salary of almost 60’000$ for someone with 5-9 years of experience.

However, from my experience and from what my colleagues say, academia offers benefits that many professions do not enjoy. Usually, it is easy to follow one’s interest and work on the problems that seem most interesting; there is little external pressure to succumb to what the institution wants. For example, at the beginning of my projects I have received 250 words of a general framework on what the project was about, but I was free to come up and embark on testing my own ideas (which I did, ending up with a proposal of 3’500 words). Moreover, the academicians have rather liberal attitude toward their working hours and are quite flexible to when they start and finish their work. I have worked as a researcher (or assistant) in Poland, Spain and the Netherlands and I have seen the same patterns everywhere. It seems that none cares, as far as you come to teach the class and publish now and then (e.g. in ASCoR it is two publications / year, from a post-doc position on). From what I see, nevertheless most people work Mon-Fri, 10-18, but academia gives an amazing flexibility and ability to work when and wherever one chooses.

Industry

For the purpose of this post, I define working in industry as doing everything (and being paid) where the main goal is not to advance and spread the scientific knowledge by mostly publishing and teaching. It seems as it is rather difficult to define working in “industry” but the most prominent examples would be sales representatives, managers, liberal professionals, engineers, manual workers etc. However, in contrast to academia, which usually forms part of the public sector, the industry mostly operates in the business/private sectors.

It seems industry is performing well; most people in the workforce have a job – with unemployment rate in EU of 12.2% (April 2013) and 7.6% in USA (May 2013). However, the recipients of the PhD in social sciences go on working in academia more often than for industry. For example, in USA, 60.6 % of the doctorate recipients stayed in academia and as little as 13.8 % went to work in industry or business. However, those who earned PhD in social sciences and went to work for industry could count with an average basic salary of 80’000$– a striking contrast to above mentioned 40’000$ for a post-doc position. It seems that this trend is similar in other fields, for example a doctoral graduate in business or management earns on average 108’000$in industry in comparison to 48’000$ for a post-doc position.

If money was only concern, it seems that working in industry it is better choice than setting on the career in academia. Earning more brings obvious benefits; many graduates strive for becoming independent of their parents’ support, moving in with the girlfriend or boyfriend, travelling extensively, buying a car, or just simply not worrying about how much they spend. However, in my opinion, the industry has some more benefits to offer too. Most importantly, it seems to me that it adopts the best practices and discoveries fast and eagerly. If you are not using the latest techniques, developments and technologies in the company you work in, you are likely not doing something right. In the industry, the projects must be planned rapidly, executed thoroughly and the results are expected “for yesterday.” Moreover, the PhD holders working in the industry may enjoy substantial opportunities to manage people and projects, helping in making evidence-based decisions and resourcefully employing the reason and critical thinking. For example, in the company I work, I strive to contribute to all the parts of the above-mentioned processes through such projects as developing other modes of delivery of our software, coming up with robust and efficient measures of performance or developing research projects from scientific and business perspectives.