What it is

The creation, manufacture and distribution of products for purchase. “Engineering” is the basic activity here. In science, phenomena are studied; in industry, things are engineered. The goal is not understanding, but output. Products are conceived, designed, tested, packaged, marketed, sold and delivered. This can be done by companies of all sizes, from big corporations to startups. There are roles for STEM PhDs in all aspects of industry: product development, testing, quality assurance, sales, marketing, even the servicing and re-designing of existing products.

Starting points

STEM PhDs can begin in any number of “scientist” or “engineer” positions, which center on technical skills; in process development or project management, where they will plan or coordinate the technical work of others; or in sales and marketing, for those interested communication and/or the business side.


In Industry, almost any starting point can potentially lead to management, or you can advance within a specific functional area, perhaps changing companies based on expertise in that area. Industry experience can also prepare you to start your own venture.


All STEM disciplines can find satisfying roles. Engineers’ specific skills may provide an advantage, but the core skills of problem solving and analysis are common to all STEM disciplines, giving all a credible chance.

Personality and outlook

All personality types can potentially be happy and successful in Industry, because of the tremendous diversity of roles. Social and teamwork skills are essential no matter the role: success in industry hinges on your ability to work with others. It is very rare for an individual to stand out based on their work alone.


Develop your inner pragmatist, because industry is about making things work (and making money). In the lab, practice thinking in terms of the product life cycle: conception, development, testing, quality assurance and future improvement. Take classes in statistics, business, process engineering or technical marketing. Get an internship in some industrial setting. Conduct informational interviews with people in industry. Pick a specific industry that interests you; read and blog about it.

Real Life Examples