PhD Industry Job Search

There are a variety of paths within industry that an individual can take with an engineering PhD. Some positions are highly technical, and directly utilize the skills and knowledge obtained throughout doctoral education and research. Others utilize the problem solving and critical thinking skills developed through years of advanced study and research.

The ability to learn and work well within a challenging environment to produce new and innovative ideas and concepts is what industry professionals are interested in from you. Adaptability in an ever changing environment is essential, most employers will focus on your ability to develop new and creative ideas as opposed to a laundry list of awards and recognition that is better suited for the academic job search.


Begin to Research Careers:

Industries Michigan PhD Candidates have found work in:

  • Computer Software
  • Automotive
  • Computer Hardware
  • Manufacturing
  • Government
  • Healthcare
  • Financial Services
  • Consulting

Companies that have hired Michigan PhD Candidates:

  • Ford
  • Intel
  • Google
  • Apple
  • Amazon
  • GM

Sample Job Titles

  • Research Scientist
  • Associate
  • Data Scientist
  • Process Engineer
  • Research Engineer
  • Senior Engineer
  • Senior Process Engineer
  • Software Engineer

In its simplest form, networking is building connections to other people. Networking involves sharing information and services among people with a common interest for mutual assistance and support.

  • To learn more about a program, career or company
  • To obtain referrals to others with information
  • To gain insight into hiring practices
  • To promote yourself and leave others with a positive, lasting impression
  • To gain an advantage in the job market

Impromptu Networking – Taking advantage of relationship-building opportunities as they arise

  • An executive at your company invites you to join them for coffee.
  • You find yourself in the elevator with someone who is working in a position you aspire to.
  • At a social event, you happen to meet someone who works at your dream company.

Proactive Networking – Seeking out opportunities to build relationships with people in an industry or field that you want to learn more about

  • You make these opportunities happen!

Informational interviews are a great way for job seekers and students exploring career options to get information and advice from professionals working in their fields of interest. In an informational interview you are the interviewer, asking the professional several questions about what they do, the industry they’re in, the strengths and challenges in their jobs, industry trends, etc. An informational interview enables you to develop a better perspective on the specifics of jobs, to examine potential career paths, and to gain an understanding of the skills needed to succeed. The interviewee may also have excellent information to share on the job market in their industry, how they got to the position they’re in, and potentially what geographic areas to target.

  • Resources for finding people to interview:
  • Once you have found a person you are interested in interviewing, e-mail them and inquire if they would be willing to participate in an informational interview (can be in-person or via phone) to share insight on your chosen field and industry.
  • Think about what you want to get out of the interview, what kinds of questions you want answered, and how you may incorporate that person into your professional network
  • Remember, informational interviewing is NOT an opportunity to ask for a job.
    • It is a great way to get great information, and hopefully add someone to your network.

Questions to Ask!

  • Where did you start your career?
  • What does a typical work day look like for you?
  • Why did you choose this industry?
  • What do you like most about your job?
  • What do you like least about your job?
  • What do you like about the corporate setting?
  • What do you like about the small company or entrepreneurial setting?
  • What advice would you give someone with your position as a goal?
  • What advice do you have for job seekers interested in this field?
  • What are the trends in this field, and where do you think this industry is headed?
  • What are some current challenges you encounter in the work you do?
  • What skills are most needed/beneficial to do your job well?

Questions NOT to Ask!

  • Do you have a job for me?
  • Do you have an internship or co-op for me?
  • What is your salary?
  • How old are you?

A resume is used to apply for positions in Industry and will look different from your CV.

The following timeline is based upon a 5-year PhD process, it is meant as a general guide.

  • Complete your profile on Engineering Careers by 12twenty and utilize Engineering Careers to schedule career advising appointments at the ECRC.
  • Come into the Engineering Career Resource Center for a general career advising appointment.
    • During this appointment you can ask questions about the job search and what resources are available to you.
  • Attend ECRC workshops such as Resume and Cover Letter Writing, Career Fair Preparation, etc.
  • Develop your Elevator Pitch.
  • Begin to research companies of interest.
    • Look at what types of positions they recruit for, their financial outlook, mission and values, geographical locations and company culture to determine if it will be a good fit.
  • Begin to put together your resume and set up an ECRC advising appointment for a resume review.
    • Determine whether you will need a resume or CV.
  • Apply for internship opportunities via Engineering Careers, company websites and other job boards.
  • Attend conferences and, if possible, give presentations to build a name for yourself in your field.  
  • Develop your professional online presence.
  • Build transferable skills throughout your PhD program.
    • Mentor an undergraduate research assistant.
    • Audit or take classes in areas outside of your area of research.
    • Volunteer and/or participate in extracurricular activities.
    • Join student organizations.
  • Continue to research companies, their competitors, challenges, financial outlook, mission and values, in addition to positions they recruit for.
  • Polish your resume and/or CV. Come into the ECRC for a resume/CV review.
    Attend Company Day Events and Information Sessions held on campus and actively network.
  • Conduct informational interviews with those currently in the field to learn more about jobs in industry and their advice regarding the job search.
  • Research and apply for internship opportunities via Engineering Careers, company websites and other job boards.
  • Attend conferences and, if possible, give presentations to build a name for yourself in your field.  
  • Explore and consider alternative career paths. Visit Versatile PhD to learn more.
  • Attend ECRC workshops on Networking, Career Fair Prep, and Interview Prep.
  • Finalize your resume/CV and cover letter.
    • Have both documents reviewed in the ECRC.
  • Update your elevator pitch and continue networking.
    • Attend Career Fairs in fall and winter. While many companies are here around the career fairs, recruiting at the PhD-level occurs throughout the year.
  • Apply for jobs that interest you.
  • Prepare for interviews.
    • Do a mock interview at ECRC and attend PhD-specific interview preparation workshops offered by the ECRC and Rackham.
  • Many employers will ask you to give a talk on your research during the interview process.
    • Prepare for this presentation far in advance and practice your delivery many times.  
  • Once an offer is received, consider speaking with an ECRC advisor about negotiation.