Non-Academic Careers

Graduate school and the post-docs that follow provide great freedom, both personally and academically. The opportunity to earn a living, albeit modest, while earning a PhD is an amazing privilege. Enjoy it, right now! Don’t blow it by stressing about the future.  Heed the wise words of Luis Serrano (UM PhD 2011), whose first job was a post-doc at the University of Quebec, but who has since worked at Google, Udacity and Apple: “If I had known how easy it is for a math PhD to find a fascinating 6-figure job in an amazing city, I would have worried less and enjoyed my academic career more.

The culture of elite Math PhD programs like Michigan often emphasizes preparation for academic careers. And being a professor is a great job. But it is only one of many great jobs for PhD mathematicians.  It is completely reasonable for highly trained mathematicians to seek to live in a particular city, or to want to make a lot of money, or to make an impact on society working on some issue about which they are passionate, such as cancer research or climate change. Michigan math PhDs are in high demand! This is true now more than ever: the data revolution has rendered high-level mathematics and problem solving stamina indispensible in virtually every human endeavor,  including computer vision for a robotic exoskeleton for paralysis patients.

All mathematicians should know something about these twenty-first century applications of mathematics: professors  need to understand the tremendous opportunities for their students and graduate students should be aware of the wide range of meaningful career options for math PhDs. Please check out some of these resources so that you will be informed!

  • Our Invitations to Industry Series in Junior Colloquium:  come meet recent Michigan Math PhD alumni to learn about what their careers look like in industry–this will help you better mentor your students, and give you the peace of mind that there are many great jobs for Math PhDs.
  • Life after Graduate School, a similar Seminar series  here at Michigan run by the physics department, in which PhD alumni in Physics/Astronomy return to tell current graduate students about what they’re doing now.
  • A personal story from UM Math PhD student Mark Greenfield about his process of choosing an industry path
  • The Erdos Institute:  Michigan Math belongs to this exciting consortium, which introduces current graduate students to PhD alumni in industry, hosts free “Boot Camps” to provide students with skills, maintains a Jobs Posting Board on Linked In, and perhaps most importantly, offers a job placement service. All Michigan Math, AIM, and physics PhD students, post-docs and alumni can take advantage of this service by reaching out to Erdos’s Placement coordinator Amanda Perrin or director Roman Holowinsky through Linked In or asking Karen Smith to put you in touch with them. Faculty running PhD programs curious about how to get their own institution involved can also reach out! Here’s a link to some Erdos Institute forms that might be of use.
  • Job and intership opportunity postings: if you are ready to look for a job or internship, you’ll want to keep an eye here.
  • Linked In is widely used by mathematicians working in industry, and increasingly, by academic mathematicians who collaborate with them. Make a free profile and join our Michigan Math PhD Alumni group!
  • The BIG Network for information about careers for mathematicians and mathematical scientists in Business, Industry, and Government. Their home page has many personal stories from Math PhDs who have transitioned to industry.
  • Siemen’s internships.
  • Advice from Susan Hermiller about finding internships
  • Stanford mathematician Gunnar Carlson’s AI company, which uses topology to do data analysis. And a blog Carlson wrote on AI and topology.

Non-Academic Job Search Posts with Advice and Job Opportunities from Alums

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