I was hoping to get some thoughts on my situation.
I'm currently in my final year of a Mechanical Engineering (with sport) Masters degree, and during my time I have come to realise that through time and spending a year at the National Physical Laboratory (researching and testing materials) that I feel more inclined to follow a career in Metallurgy/Material Science/Research Engineer, as opposed to a full on Engineer.
Doing a bit of background on potential employment opportunities in this field, I feel it would be worthwhile doing a PHD to open up some employment avenues. However, as of yet I'm not sure about what specific field of employment I want to go into.
Being unsure about what I would like to do after the PHD, I was wondering if the PHD I do would have a factor in which path I take?
I think a better way to explain it is through a example scenario, Let's just say that I am awarded a PHD through studying Tungsten Carbide and Hard Facings. A job then opens up to develop materials in a Badminton racket (My dream job) which for the sake of simplicity is composite materials. Would an employer look at my PHD and say "well he has proven he is capable of extensive research and high quality work in roughly the field that we are in (materials)" or are they more likely to say "well he has a PHD but it is completely in the wrong field.... where's the shredder?"
Hopefully you can understand what I mean, and any advice would be appreciated.
Essentially, a PhD is about being trained (and training yourself) to be an independent researcher. So if you can see yourself working in research, then a PhD is likely to be highly beneficial for your career aspirations. As for the topic, well, it's always going to help if your thesis work aligns to the dream job you later want to apply for but it's not essential to have an exact match in every aspect. In the example you've described, I would have considered that research experience in materials science to be a good enough match to get you on the interview short list!. Good luck! :-)
Don't forget the transferable skills - the communication skills, the ability to pick the relevant pieces of information from a large mass of data and to present it succinctly, the networking skills, and the time management skills, as well as the ability to work on your own initiative. These, I think, could be just as important as the actual subject-relevant knowledge you pick up.
I was hoping that I would get responses like this! Thanks very much!
I'm basically just trying to keep as many options open as I can when it finally comes down to looking for employment, whether it would be in academia or in industry. My worry was that I would be doing a PHD that was so specific that empolyers would shun my application but the replies have highlighted other skills that can be gained through doing it, and you have convinced me that doing a PHD under the field of Material Science should be sufficient for most Material Science type employers to at least consider me for an interview!
Thanks again for the responses.
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