Women in a lab

Academia or industry? The time after your PhD

After your PhD you have different opportunities. Masoud shares his thoughts with us.

As an international PhD student, if you are interested in staying in Germany, you will be curious about job opportunities after your studies. The variety of job or research positions will be different for different studies and majors but in this article, I will share my thoughts and findings which I am dealing with right now. These are general thoughts about job market after obtaining PhD degree, engineering job opportunities and type of job opportunities. 

There is a main difference between having PhD degree compared to other university degrees (master and bachelor’s degree) and that is the opportunity of working mainly as a researcher in academia or research institutes. This makes a big difference when you as a PhD graduate looking for a job. Although, it will open a wide range of positions for you to work as a researcher and you will have more options in the job market, it will also make it difficult if you have not decided by that time which direction you want to pursue for your career.  

Industry jobs offer better conditions

Research jobs are generally appealing for most PhD students but why do most PhD graduates choose to go to industry? This can be simply because industry jobs are much more than research positions and also some industry jobs offer better conditions for their employees. This can be a permanent contract which is the main difference between industry contracts and research-based contracts. Research based (post-doc or fixed term researcher position) contracts are generally two or three years contracts with a possibility to extend. This Extension can continue until the funding is available from university or external funding organizations for research.

 It is obvious that here in Germany there are certain majors that graduates from these majors have more options than others and having more options becomes important when employers want to discuss the salary. The more options you have, the more you can propose your salary. Now, this can be the question, what is the pay scale and how much is the salary for a PhD postgraduate?

Well, as a general rule, the higher the university degree and qualifications you have got, the higher the salary will be. As a comparison, table 1 shows median and average of the starting salaries for three university degrees (source: gehalt.de).  But this difference is not uniform among different subjects. Table 2 shows that highest salaries are in computer science and engineering and lowest salaries are for humanities scientists and economy scientists.

Salary based on university degree

Starting salary for academics in general

Median Average

€ 42,585

€ 45,778


€ 46,314

€ 48,416


€ 55,492

€ 58,164

Source: website gehalt.de [DE]

Salary based on the subject

Academic subject

 Without a doctorate 


Computer scientist

€ 48,300

€ 56,917

Natural scientist

€ 46,750

€ 51,742


€ 49,534

€ 53,816

Humanities scientist

€ 36,374

€ 40,356


€ 45,488

€ 49,423

Source: website gehalt.de [DE]

Maybe this question will be the biggest challenge after the PhD thesis you will be faced with! On one side, there is a lucrative job market for PhDs (depending on the subject) which can lead to management and leading positions in the industry and on the other side there is this dream of working as a researcher and ultimately, becoming a professor and conducting the research independently. Many PhD post graduates choose to go to the industry side because of a higher income salary in the beginning and getting a permanent contract after a trial period of about six months.

Federal Report Young Scientists 2021

The Federal Report Young Scientists 2021 [DE] on the percentage of the PhD postgraduates shows that most of doctorates leave the Higher Education Institutions (HEIs) or non-university research facilities in the post-doc phase.

From 61.3 percent of the researchers or PhD students from HEIs and non- university research institutes, only 43.5 percent remain in the PhD studies and make it to the end and get their PhD degree (Figure 1). After getting the degree, this 61.3 percent percentage drops drastically within a couple of years to only 22 percent for the graduates who want to stay in HEIs and non- university research institutes. On the other hand, researchers from clinics and medical practices, private sectors and other public services, are willing to get PhD degree and keep going in their positions. The continues rising of the private sector graph, justifies the falling graph of HEIs and non- university research institutes and means that there is a continuous and big movement from academia to industry. Willingness to move to the private sector and industry doubles from 20.3 by the time of graduating to 44.5 percent over the course of ten years. This willingness to industry or any private sectors may be stemmed from the fact that approximately nine out of ten young academics are employed on a temporary basis.

Percentage of post-graduates in different sections over the course of 12 years

How about the overall job market for doctorates in general or waiting time for PhD postgraduates to find full-time employment?

According to the Integrated Employment Biographies published by the Institute for Employment Research, doctorate holders have a very low unemployment rate, which seldom exceeds 2%. This means that those with a doctorate are almost entirely employed. Furthermore, the statistics demonstrate that one year after finishing their PhD, around four fifths of doctorate holders are employed full-time. According to the findings, doctorate holders have outstanding job chances in the job market.


In conclusion, there is no concrete answer that you should choose which path for your future or career. Everybody has his or her own preferences and unique abilities but based on the reports and statistics, there are some uncertainties in terms of duration of contract and future of staying in academia for doctorates than in industry. In addition, salaries can be higher, at least for certain subjects in industry for the beginning years or better than the post-doc phase.

The question is why a lot of post graduates prefer to stay in research in academia or they resist to move into industry? One possible answer can be the path back to the academia will be much more difficult specially if one cannot keep up with doing research and publishing in journals. Taking into the account that becoming a professor is a long way, and the average age of becoming professor is 41, most of the doctorates are not thinking to come back to academia once they are established their career in industry and got a permanent job contract.




March 14, 2022 4:21:33 PM

Dear Darko,
It will take some time to find a job in Germany in the fields that are not extremely in demand (i.e. software, IT, mechanical and electrical engineering, …). Here you can find the jobs in demand according to the Deutschland.de. It will be easier to get a response if the job requirements and your qualifications are matching very well. You can use Linkedin’s job search and let it notify you for the similar job positions once they are posted.
Link: https://www.deutschland.de/en/topic/business/jobs-in-demand-in-germany-and-job-seeking-tips


March 14, 2022 2:06:27 PM

Dear Behrouz,
I would recommend you to search in different job searching platforms with the "PhD position", "doctoral candidate", "research associate" searching keywords in English and "wissenschaftlicher mitarbeiter", "Doktorand" or "promotion stellenangebote" searching keywords in German.
Some of the famous platforms are: www.academics.de, www.xing.com, and website from www.daad.de with "PhDGermany Database" section (https://www2.daad.de/deutschland/promotion/phd/en/13306-phdgermany-database/) for detailed information about the positions.
PhD position offers and advertisements are not limited only for these websites but these can be good searching platforms for you to start off.

Behrouz Estiri

January 30, 2022 10:29:21 AM

I live in Stuttgart and interested in a PhD subject. How should I start? How should I find an opportunity.
I will be appreciated if you guide me.

Darko Anđić

January 28, 2022 11:01:45 AM
Dear Masoud,
Could you, please, propose some jobs for the man of my qualifications?
Your proposal would be highly appreciated.
Not actively applying but I can say that I have had difficulties to find a job in Germany for months. Something, definitely, discourages employers, even, from replying to my emails.
P.S: Please, look at my LinkedIn-profile and give me an advice where to apply.

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