I will defend my PhD soon and I am looking for opportunity outside academia. I am interested in preclinical trial research but I struggle getting referral or interview since I do not have a network in that area, yet. Thus, while looking for an opportunity in some relevant company, I was also considering to apply to fundations. Is no-profit considered as Academic experience (aka postdoc) or it may help me getting a job in the industry?

I appreciate any help and suggestion you may give me. Thank you, Marco

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    Whether something is non-profit, academic, or will help you get a job are three different issues. Are you really asking whether it's considered academic experience, or is your main question whether it will help you get a job and you think the former will answer the latter? – Acccumulation Dec 20 '18 at 21:45
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    Career advice is off topic, voting to close. – The Wandering Dev Manager Dec 20 '18 at 21:52
  • As long as the foundation provides you with opportunities to practice in the field of work you actually work in, it should be as valid as any other experience. Most organizations that are "non-profit" are that way simply because of the nature of their funding. Most employers understand that, some do not. – teego1967 Dec 27 '18 at 11:48
  • With respect, you haven't given us enough information to help you. The local feeding program for poor people is a nonprofit org. So is the American Red Cross and the Dana Farber Cancer Center. Working at Dana Farber may well count as an academic assignment. The feeding program won't. With the Red Cross, it depends what you do. Please edit your question to tell us more. – O. Jones Feb 22 at 21:04

I've been an academic, and now I'm working professionally. I can tell you what I've experienced. First, let me answer the question:

A "research foundation", in my opinion, would be academia. The foundation will usually pursue the same types of funding opportunities as a university, usually competing directly against them. Next, and the important part, working for one will ultimately NOT be a factor in whether you land some position in the private sector, however, there is a caveat to that.

For a given position, that organization will have its opinions on whether an academic is someone that should be hired. What I found, in moving from academia (university professor) to the private sector is that headhunting/recruiting firms will either not touch you, or be ineffective in presenting you to potential employers. Whatever position you land after leaving academia will be based on your own footwork, so be prepared to do a lot of weeding through job boards looking for actual employers and not recruiting firms.

Of the positions you find on your own, some company will decide that having a person in their organization that has academic experience, such as a research foundation, is more desirable than someone without. Are those companies hard to find? Yup. Do they exist? Yup. The company I'm working for now is rather small, but growing. Smaller companies are the types of positions you can expect when leaving academia and moving into private sector.

Another type of company that you can expect to hire you would be very large companies. If you're going to search a job board for one of these employers, you'll end up getting a bunch of recruiters, which you don't want because they won't present you properly, if at all. To get hired at an in-field, large company (BASF, 3M, or Dow Chemical, for examples in your field), you will need to go directly to their website and put in your application if you want to be considered.

Finally, as suggested by another responder, consider working for the government, or pseudo-government agencies (like the F.D.A., in the U.S.). This may be difficult to do if you're not a citizen of the country where you're applying, so read government postings carefully to determine if you have the citizenship requirements for the position. Even if this isn't ultimately what you want to do, the experience will be considered more valuable to a wider swath of private sector employers than academic experience, making you, ultimately, more "hire-able" when you apply for positions six to 12 months down the road.

All the positions I received interviews for when leaving academia were companies that were doing direct hires. I did not receive a single interview based on a recruiter presentation, including one recruiter that had the audacity to insult me because I was coming out of work as a university professor. Not all recruiting agencies are that evil, but I repeat, I didn't get a single interview based off a recruiter: they all came from organizations, mostly smaller, that wanted my particular skill set.

Good luck and Godspeed!


Nonprofits may do basic research, but by definition they are not academic institutions like universities, and their missions are usually broader and more applied (e.g. funding, disseminating, and championing research applications) than doing basic research itself, especially if the nonprofit is relatively large.

Also, nonprofit work is not technically post-doc, as post-doc is typically a title reserved for work in university research center or lab settings, within the framework of a traditional academic institution.

There might be borderline instances if a nonprofit is very tightly integrated or affiliated with a university lab or center, but for the most part post-doc positions are only advertised by universities (at least in my experience).

As long as you are venturing outside the academe, I would encourage you to consider opportunities in government research labs or agencies, such as state departments of health. They provide solid research experience and can be a good 'staging area' between the academe and the private sector, for you to spend a few years and build your CV. Good luck!

  • Some non profits do advanced work my first job was at a Research Association in the UK which was ranked one and two in the world in its area. – Neuromancer Feb 21 at 1:29

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