eine Frau mit Feldstecher in einem Feld

Going to University Opens Up Many Paths

Your degree is only the start. But what route do you choose?

There are more than 28,000 students at the University of Zurich. Every year, almost 6,000 of them complete their degree – a Master’s, a Bachelor’s or a PhD. After graduation comes the decision on what path to take; an academic career, a career in business, or another profession? Only a small percentage of graduates opt for the academic route. Most go for an attractive job in business or government where they can apply what they learned at university in practice.

In the focus section of this Journal, we present alumni and alumnae who have chosen science and research roles outside an academic institution. One of them is economist Basil Odermatt, who engages with questions related to a climate-neutral future at a private research and consulting bureau in Zurich. He likes the fact that his work has practical relevance, and is less interested in academic research. Biologist Pascale Hutter works in an environmental bureau, tracking selected species as part of the federal government’s biomonitoring program. Applying her knowledge in practice is also her priority. Stefan Ewert, a biochemist in the Basel pharmaceutical industry, can vouch for the fact that science at the interface of basic and applied research can also be incredibly interesting.

Scientists seeking opportunities in the life sciences industry have it fairly easy compared to graduates in the humanities wanting to practice their discipline outside the academic world. Two who have managed to do so are Romance studies graduate Deborah Keller, who analyzes children’s and young people’s media for an institute, and Fabienne Tissot, who’s responsible for discourse and dialogue analysis at a communications management company.

These people’s chosen routes reflect just a small section of the great variety of career paths available outside the university. For example, some people choose to found a company to pursue ideas and innovations from their research. Entrepreneurship is something the new UZH president, Michael Schaepman, would like to see more of. Innovation strengthens the university’s image and should be systematically encouraged. One person who took the leap is geoinformatics expert Reik Leiter, who started his own business with three colleagues. Their spin-off, Exolabs, develops programs for analyzing satellite data.

Stefan Stöcklin
Translation: Michael Craig