In this article, I am going to compare working in academia or in the private sector from an academic researcher point of view. To clarify, I cannot claim this comparison is valid for all sectors since my origin is from computer engineering. Therefore, the comparison is made for IT people and for those who are looking for career opportunities in IT.
First of all, let me explain why I chose academia and still working as an academic researcher. In my daily life, I don’t like doing the same thing continuously, but I do like experiencing different things and producing novelty in different areas. In academia, researchers are always tackling new challenges in their working areas and trying to produce novel solutions. Therefore, one needs to be very active, keep themselves up to date, and follow the current trends in the field of their research. This is the most attractive part of academia for me. Secondly, I don’t like being employed by somebody else. Academia gives you freedom what, when, and how to work. You, yourself is your own boss and have a power of flexibility. This doesn’t mean academic researchers work less. On the contrary, I sometimes work in the middle of the nights, during the weekend time, etc. However, I decide this but no one else. Thirdly, I really like teaching, and teaching is always a part of academia. Making students learned some new topics, seeing the light in their eyes when they learned, makes me happy and satisfied.
Furthermore, an academic researcher has always a chance to visit different cities and countries. For this, there are many occasions such as workshops, summer schools, conferences, research visits, etc. I like being mobile, and this mobility allows me to learn about different cultures, meet different people and places. Likewise, different academic researchers from all over the world can visit us. So, one can meet with the godfathers of their research topic in person. What an exciting opportunity, isn’t it!
Let’s move on to the negative sides of working as an academic researcher. I have been an academic researcher for approximately 10 years. During this time, I took my Ph.D. degree and worked in three different universities in several positions. I have many friends that have a computer engineering degree and graduated at the same time as me. Almost all of my friends working in the private sector for approximately 10 years are richer than me now 🙂 Their salaries are 2 or 3 times than mine even they don’t have a Ph.D. degree. Besides, in the academic world, finding a permanent position is almost impossible, especially if you are in a different country. Since you don’t know the local language, or even if you learn, the native speakers will always have priority in positions you applied for. This is actually the case for the private sector as well, but the difference is, for example in Finland, the academic positions are contract-based and in general between 2-4 years. One looking for an academic position always needs to apply for funding foundations, try to get project fundings, and continuously apply for positions in various universities. But, if one gets a job in the private sector, (s)he will have a chance to work in the same company with a long-term contract.
To summarize, though I don’t earn much and have to regularly seek positions to apply for, I love continuous learning and sharing the knowledge with others. If you want the power of flexibility and freedom instead of the power of money, academia would be a perfect choice 😉 As mentioned, this comparison has been made by an academic researcher. Therefore, I really would like to hear others’ comments working in the private sector in IT. Maybe, one can convince me that the private sector has also similar freedom and flexibility, who knows! In any case, my slogan is: Be your own boss!