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I'm wondering what impact does prior industry experience (by which I mean 2+ years in a non-trivial functional role in any established organization) lend to the profile of someone who is entering grad school for a Ph.D. (in my case, its Computer Science, but I expect the question to be applicable to other areas as well) ?

  • Do admission committees look upon it as a bonus point, seeing that the applicant has managed real-world responsibilities successfully in the past, thereby improving the chances of acquiring funding (in terms of TA/RA) ?
  • More importantly, does it help the candidate during (and post Ph.D), when he is looking for research internships/post-docs ?

In both cases, assuming the position the applicant held is in a completely different area from his/her research, what other factors become important in the both the above cases? Is it the difficulty of projects the candidate undertook (which, frankly, very few people outside the organization are equipped to judge), or the level of success (promotions, accolades acquired during the stint in industry) that matter, or are there other parameters as well ?

Also, in case it is deemed that such a profile offer limited/no advantage to the grad student, it would be nice to know why that may be the case - after all, most (if not all!) organizations are run for profit, and they would tend to have very little use for someone who is not productive or capable of learning.

1 Answer 1

I don't think that having industry experience is going to help with a PhD application unless you have actually worked on the project that you want to do your PhD in. It's certainly not going to help if you worked in a completely different area. Also note that PhD students don't usually apply for funding. I'm farily certain that the answer to your first point is "no" in almost all cases.

That said, I believe it would be more help when looking for internships or a (non-academic) job after finishing the PhD. Again it depends what exactly it is you've done and what you're applying to do.

Working at a company and doing PhD-level research are two (very) different things (unless you're doing industrial research) and being good at one doesn't imply that you're equally good at the other.