In one of my blogs, I briefly wrote about career options and provided a table with various career types and organizations to find these careers.
I wanted to focus on what I thought were unique opportunities that I did not know about when I was in graduate school. Just as a quick background, I was a graduate student in the Pharmacology Department and conducted research in the area of neuroscience. I knew I wanted to problem solve, and have a career where I was always learning.
I did not want to continue working in the lab. I applied to an organization called CNA Corporation, which is also known as the Center for Naval Analyses. I’d describe it as an organization that provides consulting services for the military branches, but they also support other government agencies, such as the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), Health and Human Services (HHS), and Department of Homeland Security (DHS).
So why is this organization a unique opportunity? Well, it’s the only organization that wants its employees to deploy with the military. You may find other consulting positions, but this one offers a little bit of adventure.
What does deploying mean? Well, they have opportunities for you to live and work on a carrier or in different military offices around the world. You could also deploy to areas of conflicts, such as Afghanistan, or areas where natural disasters are occurring, such as the tsunami that occurred in Fukushima, Japan.
I didn’t take the opportunity to deploy myself while I worked there, but I did provide support to a military exercise between the U.S. and Australia. It was really interesting and challenging.
So, what do you do when you’re on a military exercise or deployed? Your role is as a research analyst: you create a study plan, collect data, analyze data, conduct interviews, and come up with answers to military leadership questions. Sometimes you’ll provide lessons learned from the exercise or research project with actionable recommendations for improvement. So, if you don’t want to work in the lab, but you want something more adventurous, then this might be the place for you. However, there are not many projects related to science or public health so it might not fit your interests.
I recently came across another unique opportunity. It’s called the Commissioned Corps of the U.S. Public Health Service (PHS). This organization focuses on public health. A number of people in the program are health care providers, but they do have openings for Ph.D. scientists.
Research areas include chemistry, biology, entomology, microbiology, toxicology, and epidemiology. PHS officers work all over the nation and in a number of organizations, such as the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and Centers for Disease Control (CDC). If you are still in graduate school, you can apply to the Senior Commissioned Officer Student Training and Extern Program (SRCOSTEP) as a Medical Laboratory Scientist. You can also apply after receiving your Ph.D., but you’ll need to monitor vacancies throughout the year.
Openings for Ph.D. scientists are less common than for public health providers, such as physicians. I’ve heard from PHS officers that it’s a great opportunity for personal growth, professional development, and public health impact. PHS also provides the opportunity to deploy to areas needing public health services, such as Liberia during the Ebola outbreak. So, if you want to work in the lab, or as a drug reviewer in the FDA, and be a part of an organization that provides public health impact, then PHS might be for you.