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A PhD Is Not Enough: A Guide To Survival In Science

3.89  ·  Rating details ·  1,335 ratings  ·  153 reviews
Despite your graduate education, brainpower, and technical prowess, your career in scientific research is far from assured. Permanent positions are scarce, science survival is rarely part of formal graduate training, and a good mentor is hard to find. This exceptional volume explains what stands between you and fulfilling long-term research career. Bringing the key surviva ...more
Paperback, 128 pages
Published December 21st 1993 by Basic Books (first published January 1st 1993)
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 ·  1,335 ratings  ·  153 reviews

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Jun 20, 2014 rated it liked it
Shelves: grad-school
A bit dated after these 20 years, but still contains lots of solid advice.

The chapter on Establishing a Research Program is especially helpful. Be "problem-oriented" not "technique-oriented." Start your career by choosing a problem that will lead to several small publishable milestone results ("publons" or small publishable kernels of work) each year, not exclusively one huge result that will take 10 years. Diversify by working on two or three problems at once.

Another good point: Don't be seen a
Feb 26, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction
I definitely read this book right when it is of most use to me. Suffering from a lack of direction, ambition and motivation in the vacuum left behind by my Ph.D. work, this book gave the best, no-nonsense advice that I've ever received about figuring out the best route to success within academia. Highly recommended to anyone looking for a career in research. ...more
Ernestasia Siahaan
Pursuing a PhD degree is more than just getting a higher education degree. It is actually part of a research career, be it in an academic institution or not. This book actually helps put that in perspective, and gives advice on what to keep in mind to climb the ladder of scientific career.

I did gain new insight on how to position and prepare myself if I want to do research for a living. There are surprisingly some things I had not been aware of, even though I've acquainted myself with working i
Nov 09, 2012 rated it really liked it
4th year science PhD student here.

I recommend this book to PhD students, postdocs and grad school applicants. If I had read this book before entering grad school, I would have spent my previous years differently.

I view this book as a science career survival book full of practical advice. Meanwhile, it gives you the big picture of scientific academia. This book is not about alternative career paths available.

After ~70% of the journey, the points start to look familiar and I find it less stimul
Feb 25, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Before I read this, I was never able to give a solid answer when my advisor, supervisor, or department head asked me what I wanted to do when I'm let loose with my PhD. I had no idea. No plans beyond getting the degree itself.

I'm so glad I read this book. As a PhD student in Chemistry, I was blind to what was waiting for me coming out of grad school. Post-docs, assistant professorships, tenure, academia, national labs, industry?

I won't bias the review with my conclusions, but this book helped me
Tara Brabazon
Oct 09, 2020 rated it really liked it
A straight-forward book, but the imperatives offered here are important ones.

Finish what you start.

What is the problem you are trying to solve?

What is your story?

What is the story of your research?

How do these stories conflate?

Answering these questions - honestly - can be the foundation of a strong career. The weakness of the book - understandably - is an underestimation of the labour surplus in universities, and beyond. Absolutely outstanding people remain unemployed or underemployed. That
Priya Prakash
Feb 23, 2021 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: science
As a graduate student hoping to establish an independent research career in academia, I found this book to be extremely useful. The perfect time to read it is during the last year of your graduate school or during the first year of your postdoctoral position.
Abigail Advincula
Oct 17, 2019 rated it it was amazing
A really excellent short book on how to do well in science. Every grad student should read this!
Dec 29, 2008 rated it it was ok
Recommends it for: PhDs
Shelves: self-help
Overall: The book talks mainly about what one should do after getting a Ph.D. to be successful in the academia emphasizing on the need to publish more. It is a good read during the Ph.D. curriculum.

Directly from the book (my comments in brackets):

Pg. Quoted
ix Those who do not (learn science survival skills), to paraphrase Mencken, have an excellent chance of moving from graduate study to scientific retirement without passing through a career.
xi If no one pays attention, what difference does i
Tony Perez
This is absolutely essential reading for anyone pursuing a scientific career in the hard sciences. Feibelman gives clear, straightforward advice on how best to maximize your chances of succeeding in the dog eat dog world of research in academia, government labs, and private industry. He gives advice for all stages of a scientific career, beginning in graduate school up to the establishment of a research program as a "senior scientist." The topics covered include

1. choosing a thesis advisor,
2. ch
Shreyas Saxena
Jul 02, 2016 rated it really liked it
Shelves: science, non-fiction
The book is a quick read, and I would not be wrong if I say: "Only good things can come out from reading it".

The book is targeted for people who are seeking a career in academia. It is a relevant book for people nearing the end of their PhD as it can help one see different ways their career can unfold in "Academia".

The author provides different pieces of advice regarding different facets of Academia, for eg. on how to give a talk, networking, choosing research projects, labs etc. One of the mes
Apr 04, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Very solid advice. Particularly good points on the importance of having short-term research projects with good expected payoff even if you want to pursue a longer project at the same time, and on how to make effective presentations.
Eric Liu
Mar 28, 2020 rated it liked it
This is more like a 5 hour long blog article than a "book". It was first written nearly 30 years ago but the takeaways are still valuable for those who will seek academia as a career and far beyond just cliche. It not only gives practical instructions on things like how to give talks, write papers, connect with colleagues, but more intriguingly provides rookies like me vivid anecdotes and experience as well as golden rules to survival in academia. My favorite part is about how a phd student or g ...more
Shubhang Goswami
Apr 13, 2020 rated it it was amazing
A really good book, a must read for those who want to pursue a career in academia. It is relatively succinct and within 100 or so pages delivers a lot of common sense, so to speak. Chapter 4,5 and 9 will be very useful for grad students of all years. It even provides stories of students who succeeded and those who did not and gives tokens of advice from their experience.

You’ll either learn from it or it will reiterate that you are on the right track, eitherway it is definitely an important read.
Dec 24, 2015 rated it really liked it
Feibelman's A PhD Is Not Enough: A Guide to Survival in Science is a succinct guide on navigating a career as a scientist starting from the graduate student level. Includes tips on giving scientific talks and also job interviews. By today's standards, perhaps the advice is rather general and boilerplate, but there are still a lot of good pointers to take away from it. Feibelman does have certain strong preferences, which seem to reflect his own life journey:
1) Always try to work for an establish
Sep 09, 2013 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: career
Even in recent times, there have been a few very successful scientists who did not have a PhD, like Freeman Dyson. Still, if you are not a genius and have an insane amount of luck, if you want to have a successful scientific career, having a PhD certainly helps.

"A PhD is not enough!" is a book containing advice on career development for graduate students and post-docs. I love the title of this book! The title already states the main point of the book: just going through graduate school in cruis
Victor Gonzalez
May 14, 2013 rated it it was ok
The book explores the world of a scientist after completing the PhD. The portrait that Feibelman gives of the science world when looking for a job is not a good one. To become a scientist is very difficult and the completion is fierce. Feibelman believes that the skill for surviving the world of science can be taught, where other scientist believe that it can only be gain by experience and only the taught will survive.

Feibelman provides some of his experience (and some of the experience of his c
Trung Ngoc
Nov 28, 2015 rated it really liked it
I am going to start my PhD very soon, and by reading the book, I have chance to know a few things that I would encounter on the road ahead. I really appreciate success and failure case studies the author provides in the first chapters. It would clearly help new PhD students like me in not only choosing appropriate research path but also getting to know how to write and publish good papers. Whereas later chapters of the book focuses more on what it looks like being a postdoc researcher, a profess ...more
Juan Lizarazo Ferro
Jun 30, 2016 rated it really liked it
Unromantic view of what it takes to be a scientist nowadays so that one can get to do some of the romantic stuff someday, the hacking-away-at-the-frontier-of-knowledge someday. The enterprise of science described in its nitty-gritty details: grants, advisors, publishing, building a reputation, getting tenure. A reasonable trajectory from PhD to tenure is proposed: get the PhD, after that do a post-doc, leave academia for industry or a government lab, build a reputation there, and return after th ...more
Christine Klymko
Jul 08, 2013 rated it liked it
This book is definitely something worth reading while working on a PhD in a STEM field. It is a bit cynical and a bit depressing, but also contains a lot of good information about marketing yourself as a researcher. A lot of the information is intuitive one you hear it, but I personally had not thought of a number of the issues before. I found the chapter on giving talks very informative. It helped me to clarify why I had found certain talks good or bad in the past. However, while very informati ...more
I feel like this book is telling me I am DESTINED TO FAIL. The giving a talk and publishing papers part seemed fairly obvious. I don't really intend to stay in my field after graduating (surprising, I know - given that there are only half as many new jobs as there are new graduates per year), but this seems to indicate that that may also be a bad idea?

I didn't love the book, but it was a quick read. Probably better to read WHILE CONSIDERING applying to graduate schools rather than towards the e
Dec 03, 2013 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
I have mixed feelings about this book. It definitely has some very negative undertone overall, which I don't appreciate. It starts out with a series of failed researchers' careers, and continues the harsh undertone throughout. Also, some advice is just not sound, like the focus on getting grants without second thoughts, even if it's from DoD of US. Overall, I can see the author paints a harsh life of US research, but hey, lighten up dude.

The positive side is that some really constructive advice
Apr 09, 2008 rated it really liked it
Finally I got a chance to read something that tells me what I'm getting into with this PhD business. It was very honest about how assistant professorhood can ruin your life. I didn't like how it focused a little too much (not overtly) on being an overachiever. But hey, that's one way to go about it. I recommend this one to all my PhD friends. (The Rice EE dept gives it to every incoming PhD student.) ...more
Oct 08, 2016 rated it it was amazing
A delightful book full of useful and timely advice. The author is obviously predisposed to non-academic careers. But the overall advice is good. Scientific leaders have vision. They have a question they are trying to answer. They can articulate why that question is a good question to ask. And they are willing to pursue a variety of means to answer it. Earning a PhD does not mean that you suddenly have this vision. It is simply not enough.
Mahmoud Ismail
Quite repetitive. Much of its content is already known to me. Besides, most of the content is irrelevant to the Egyptian case.
Jun 21, 2019 rated it it was ok
Shelves: work-related
First, I can't believe he used "he" for an entire book on surviving in STEM. Your advisor: "he". Your fellow student: "he". Your boss: "he". Ridiculous and infuriating. And I read the second addition, copyrighted in 2011!
Second, he argues that nobody should ever be an assistant professor because it's about the worst job you could have (...arguable) and instead, you should go into industry first and go to associate professor from there ('cause there are so many assoc jobs available). Note that th
Naveen Arun
Oct 14, 2020 rated it liked it
I think the main takeaways I got from this are (a) to focus more on big-picture things when talking about your research, rather than techniques, (b) during your postdoc, even more so than during your PhD, the amount of focus and dedication you need is really high, and you should focus on short-term/easily-completable projects as much as possible, and (c) national labs or industry labs are a good career path even if you're ultimately interested in becoming a professor. I will definitely reread th ...more
Sep 08, 2017 rated it it was amazing
given a copy from a friend. admittedly I skipped some chapters since I just finished a (thankfully successful) year on the academic job market, and was unwilling to relive the experience on my personal time! the chapters that I did read were mostly reinforcing what I've already learned from my peers and mentors. but I really appreciated his perspective on how grueling being a junior professor can be. I think very few faculty are willing to be 100% honest about how s**tty life is pre-tenure. Also ...more
May 03, 2020 rated it really liked it
Good career advice regardless of whether you're getting a PhD, would recommend to anyone. Actionable and realistic advice to survive in a competitive market. Possibly not new ideas to some, but a good reminder to implement them in your work life.

Not a feel-good book, but if a realistic look at putting in the extra effort to work in a field you like. If 150 pages of realistic situations with a slightly negative undertone is going to dissuade you from the career in research, then it's probably fo
Jun 29, 2018 rated it liked it
Shelves: life-advice
This book has been the recent bus lecture I took with me on my way to work (yes, PhD position!). I enjoyed reading it because it's from the view of a supervisor but I also skipped some chapters because I'm obviously not the target group. The author focuses on PhD students in science and a scientific environment (work in labs etc.). I am doing my PhD in humanities and likely I will never work in a lab or direct experiments. But anyway it was an interesting read and I would recommend it to everyon ...more
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