Non-academic Career Paths

If you want to orient yourself outside of academia as a young scientist, the job market outside of publicly funded research often seems confusing or even inaccessible. The career fields and opportunities that are open are not readily apparent. At the same time, it offers many opportunities, especially for well-trained academics.

Application procedure as a scientist in industry

The application process outside academia differs significantly from procedures in academic fields in terms of procedures, but also in terms of standards when applying. Publications, teaching and third-party funding are less important than professional and personal skills. In order to be attractive to non-university employers, these must be clearly emphasized in the application and in the interview.

A German application in the field of freelance work usually consists of a cover letter, a curriculum vitae with application picture and the relevant certificates, such as degree, doctorate, work references, further education certificates. As a rule, you should not send the list of publications! An exception to this is, for example, positions related to research and development (resarch & development), where a list of publications makes perfect sense. The challenge is to provide the future employer with a suitable application with the desired information clearly arranged on a maximum of 2 to 3 pages, so that you are selected from possibly numerous applications for an interview.

If you successfully clear the first hurdle of the written application and are invited to the interview, thorough preparation will help keep nervousness under control. In a job interview, you will be required to consciously market yourself and communicate strategically. Job interviews have a specific pattern. First, the applicant is greeted with small talk, then you are invited to tell something about yourself, then the employer introduces himself as a company and the position - after which you have the opportunity to ask your questions - and finally you clarify how to proceed. For various positions or (usually large/international) companies, there are additional elements in the application process, such as a (research) project presentation or assessment centers, for example.

If you are planning to apply to the international job market, you need to inform yourself carefully beforehand. Because despite globalization and an increasingly mobile workforce, the customs in the various labor markets are still quite different. A good knowledge of intercultural differences is therefore indispensable.


Competencies are key technical terms that play an important role in job application procedures. Not only do they appear in job advertisements, you also have to be able to explain your core competencies using examples. But you will also be asked about a weakness in job interviews.

You acquire your qualifications and competencies through:

  • Your work in science
  • Jobs/internships
  • Hobbies
  • Honorary office

Of course, you are not experienced in every competency in the same way, so you may classify yourself as a novice, experienced, or expert.

According to employers, junior scientists* bring the following competencies to the table:

  • Analyze
  • Foreign languages
  • Leadership (official / unofficial in terms of support staff, working group, etc.)
  • Fundraising
  • Information management
  • Intercultural skills
  • Presentation
  • Project management
  • Text writing, writing skills
  • Research

Do you know your competencies?