Forum:Working abroad without a PhD
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2.2 years ago
Rox ★ 1.3k

Hello everyone,

In the next 2 years, I would like to start living and working out of my original country (France), still in the field of Bioinformatic (and possibly some Nanopore would be involved somewhere).

I don't have a PhD, I only have a Master degree and my 2 years of experience in a research team and (in 2 years) my 3 years of experience on a sequencing platform (maybe at some point my name will appear on an assembly paper).

Since I really can't stand uncertainty and like to plan ahead, I was wondering about if it was possible to find a job abroad without doing or having a PhD... I never heard about anyone traveling for work outside of the thesis context. And I have a lot of questions regarding that. Would researcher team or platform employ someone not coming from their country if no PhD? Would I be "under leveled" ? Can anyone bring some insight if ever experienced something similar ?

Thank you,

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I really can't stand uncertainty

Unfortunately, in these days of short term contracts, uncertainty is hard to avoid. In academia and sometimes in industry, you often don't know until the last minute if your contract is going to be renewed. To avoid this, you should have another job lined up even if eventually you'll accept a contract renewal. Here mobility is key, you should be prepared to move where the jobs are.

While the utility of a PhD can vary by country, this is the only degree that is recognized equivalently world-wide. This doesn't mean that it is required, in particular for computational positions. However, lack of a PhD often has to be compensated by some years of experience and a PhD is beneficial to move up the academic/corporate ladder.

The main issue with working abroad is language. In academia and a few global companies, the working language is English pretty much everywhere except in the most isolated institutions. However this is not the case in industry, in particular for small/medium size enterprises. So if you move to a country where English is not widely spoken, you would need to learn the local language quickly unless working in an international environment.

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Keep an eye on the job site of VIB (http://www.vib.be/en/jobs), as not for all bioinformatics job openings a PhD is required.

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If you are able, try and attend conferences (which would be reasonably local for you to go to and which may have international attendees) and see if you can network with people from a country/region you want to target. Once people have met you in person and have been able to judge your skills then there is always a change of landing a job with them/their institution. You don't want to start these interactions by saying you want a job though.

Since you are in EU, you will be able to freely apply for and move to any member country, correct?

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Yes correct ! I do have in mind to settle in the Netherlands if possible.

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2.2 years ago
Asaf 8.6k

I can tell you that the market is in desperate need of computational scientists, my institute alone has 13 open positions for computationals and it's hard to get good candidates. I can safely say that you should apply for positions even if the minimum requirement is PhD, recruiters consider personal traits like curiosity and creativity before diplomas.

I don't know what is your legal status but if you're considering the US and are not a citizen you should be looking for non-profit institutes, commercial companies won't be able to hire you.

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I agree on the difficulties to get good candidates, I am still looking for people, from all levels.

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Maybe this topic should be the subject of a forum question. My impression is that computational positions in biology are unattractive because of:
- lack of visibility: computer science people still don't know to look for/are not interested in jobs in biology (except medicine-related in some areas)
- lack of proper career path
- short term contracts
- low pay (i.e. in many places it's on a biologist salary scale which is known to be the lowest of all science sectors except in universities that have a unique rigid salary scale)
- lack of entry level positions: many positions require dual experience in computational and biological domains

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yes, we can start discussing this, I agree on many of your points

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I imagine it is hard to get good candidates because, within the bioinformatic field, there is so many branches and sub branches. And even if I can be interested in several of them (metagenomics, methylation, and so much more actually), I have trouble considering myself an expert in a particular field. So I wouldn't dare to apply to a certain job position, because I would still have to learn about it.

Learning news things surely don't scare me, quiet the opposite, but I don't know if coming with my enthousiasm about the subject and my curiosity is enough to get the job if you I don't have already knowledge and experience about the fields, the tools, the procedures... That could be a thing blocking me to apply. Is it alright to learn on the field ?

Also some branches of bioinformatic requires certain special skills. For example, the whole statistic field, even if I got notions about statistics, I don't have a pure statician formation, and I wouldn't feel confident about applying to a position that ask for a biostatistician.

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If you're motivated and find a position that interests you, you should not be afraid of applying. Some supervisors/places can provide on-the-job training. This is something to discuss at interview time if/when you reach that stage. The key is to have good education foundations on which to build new skills.

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2.2 years ago

As an aside, the utility of a doctorate varies greatly by country. In the US, for example, it'd be rare to have a master's degree in science (we usually go from BA -> PhD), while in German civil service a PhD isn't a qualification for any position other than professor (even that requirement is somewhat questionable).

Regarding working remotely, it's rarely the case that this is permitted in academia. There are a few exceptions to this, such as some of the Galaxy team working remotely, but that's very much the exception and it'd be unlikely that most labs would consider hiring someone that wouldn't move to their location.

What's likely a possibility for you would be external consulting. You can then either do that through a firm or directly with labs, where they don't hire you but you simply freelance. That sort of relationship with labs and companies is much more doable and the freelancing companies are used to having remote freelancers.

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2.2 years ago
Emily 23k

Loads of jobs at the EBI ask only for Masters, or "PhD or equivalent experience", so if you've worked in the field for a few years then that counts. This is because the majority of EBI jobs are in service rather than research, that is creating/maintaining/curating a public database, rather than carrying out academic research. This advert for a job at UniProt wants a degree and two years relevant experience.

I would say if you're looking for straight academia, you have to go down the PhD route. Academia is undergrad->PhD->Post-doc(*n)->PI and there is no alternative route. But if you want to branch out into service or industry then people are just looking for people who can do the job and do it well.

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2.2 years ago
joe ▴ 240

I work abroad in biotech and don't have a PhD, I actually left my PhD while abroad for this job (after completing a MSc). If you're young, single, and otherwise un-tethered - meaning you're able to go where the work is - I think you'll have an easy time to find a job. Perhaps the most important thing to do is expand your knowledge and skill set. Running a sequencing machine and analyzing the data is pretty straight forward on the computational side these days, and likewise, the wet-lab work is also more or less straight forward. If you can do both you're much more valuable regardless of your degree... You mentioned nanopore sequencing and THE hot field these days is metagenome collection and analysis, and nanopore obviously has a big advantage here. There are companies that fly people around the world to collect metagenome samples for their private databases. Maybe you'll get lucky and find such a company. Also, cloud computing is the direction many companies are turning. If you can become an AWS/Google Cloud expert you can easily freelance. To work in "the cloud" requires a skill set combining a developer/dev-ops/systems-admin all while understanding the basic biology and technologies behind the data. People who have this skill set are hard to come by. Good luck!

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2.2 years ago
Carambakaracho ★ 2.9k

if you don't like uncertainty, I would avoid academia at all cost. I mean no offense to the academics here, but most of you know the early career stage struggle. Companies have the same problems to find good candidates and once you secured a position in a company, it is highly unlikely you'll be laid off unless the company fails - which is the biggest risk. The advantage of for-profit-organizations is that there's such no requirement as what Emily wrote:

undergrad->PhD->Post-doc(*n)->PI

The disadvantage might be a lack of freedom, you need to work on what is in the companies best interest. Though I had the impression that I needed to work on what was in my PI's best interest was when I was in academia...

And moves are part of the business, there's not that many companies and as soon as you change the company you'll almost certainly move, possibly even change the country.

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Oh when I talked about uncertainty, I was just refeering to the fact I was asking a question for something that would happen in 2 years, so my post may look like a bit far fetched ! I don't mind temporary position at all, I'm not really looking for only a permanent position. I think it's actually quiet nice to change subjects a lot and to renew your skills, meet new people... My main concern was more : "Does this sketch I'm making in my head to work abroad is achievable with my non PhD status ?"

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