Pursuing an Academic Career: A Ph.D. Is Not Enough

As an aspiring academic, I read with great pleasure and interest A Ph.D. Is Not Enough: A Guide to Survival in Science by Peter Feibelman. My research mentor suggested this book to me; a year later, I finally picked it up. Finishing a paper for a course, I decided to review the contents of the book so I could cite it. Surprisingly, it piqued my desire for first-hand knowledge of an academic career. I set to reading the book and did not put it down until I finished it later that night. The 100-plus page book is an easy read, especially for those interested in career development. Although I have been fortunate to have knowledgeable, productive, and friendly mentors, this book can serve in place of a mentor or as an additional mentor. (For students without a mentor, I want to highlight this point.)

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I think that the book is seminal for those students (undergraduate and graduate), as well as post-doctoral fellows, interested in research careers in the world of academia. Feibelman discusses important topics such as choosing a thesis advisor, to writing publishable papers, to choosing a viable long-lasting research program. Some parts of the book were not as relevant to me, as an undergraduate student, but I found most of the chapters in the book helpful. I especially enjoyed the chapters "Writing Papers: Publishing Without Perishing," "From Here to Tenure: Choosing a Career Path," "Getting Funded," and "Establishing a Research Program."

The pragmatic issues discussed in the book are important to those interested in an academic career, as well as professional life in general,as he also discusses such real world issues as interview and presentation skills and conflicts with supervisors. Discussing strategies for succeeding in the field, he gave an overview of research careers not only in academia but in the government and in the industry as well. The strategies that Feibelman offers are straightforward and, more importantly, useful. As a social science major, I feel that the examples that the author provides are geared more towards basic scientists, including physicists and biologists, but I think that the book is applicable to the masses. I would go so far as to say that the book should be required for those interested in academic research careers.

Reading A Ph.D. Is Not Enough: A Guide to Survival in Science has provided me with indispensable information in planning my career trajectory and can give other undergraduate students essential information on research careers. In summary, do not put this book at the back of the shelf as I initially did. The pragmatic strategies and real-world examples that the author discusses can solidify your decision about career paths (especially one in academic research) and fortify your skill-set to become a critical and effective scientist.


References and Suggested Reading

Feibelman P. (1993). A Ph.D. Is Not Enough: A Guide to Survival in Science. Cambridge, MA: Perseus Publishing.

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