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Is Academia or Industry a Better Fit for Your Career?

Industry veterans Katherine Lee, Pfizer and Bill Carroll, Carrol Applied Science L.L.C highlight key differences between working in academia and industry

Youtube ID: 0IyjmrgMfEU

Bill Carroll, Carroll Applied Science, L.L.C.: [00:00:00] So the difference between academia and industry is, in academia you can work on anything you want as long as you can get it funded. But, in industry you're going to work on what I ask you to work on. And the question is, "Are you the sort of person who can get interested in any kind of a problem or does it have to be a certain kind of problem?"

If you can get interested in a lot of different things, industry may well be for you.

Christina Bodurow, Vice President, Global Regulatory Affairs, Data Sciences, Safety & Regulatory, IQVIA: [00:00:37] In general, academic problem solving goes on a longer timeline. And longer could be decades in some cases, but in general, industry timeline problem solving is on a shorter timeline. So if you personally prefer to kind of work through quickly and process problems more quickly, you may be more comfortable in an industry setting.

Now, again, we're talking 80/20 here. There's no absolutes. And then attached to that, I think is also sort of the return, the return on your investment. For academics, you may be working on a problem that won't get you results or return or that, coveted gold star JACS article for years and years and years, you have to be able to tolerate sort of those kind of timeframes and be able to kind of put off your gratification so to speak.

In industry, the return on investment is a critical piece of the problems that industry actually takes on. If you want that kind of an environment, if you think you'll thrive in that kind of environment, that's an important thing to think about. Because, usually the turn on the projects needs to be more short term and also with a higher return on investment.

And then the last axis, which personally for me was the hardest, was teaching. Obviously when you're in academia, you spend a lot of time teaching and it might not just be in a classroom. It might be in a laboratory or, helping your graduate students or post-docs learn.

In industry you still can teach. I actually taught in night school for several years after I joined an industry position. But, you know, obviously in academia that's a bigger part of the job and you really have to love it because it is part of your job.