Founding Partner, Principiæ
Ph.D. from: Stanford University (Applied Physics)
Ph.D. students should strive to develop not just one skill, but a special combination of skills to stand out in the job market. For example, being a nanophotonics expert is good, but not unique; being trilingual is also good, but not unique; however, being a trilingual nanophotonics expert is unique!
Senior Research Scientist, the Optical Sciences Company (tOSC)
Ph.D. from: The University of Central Florida College of Optics and Photonics (Optics)
The problem with many Ph.D. programs is just what you imply in this question—they often teach graduates one “most” important skill. After graduation, in both industry and academia, Ph.D.s are frequently pigeon-holed into a particular role. But the most capable, productive and useful Ph.D.s I know have a diverse skill set. They can combine good analytical and design abilities with hands-on hardware skills in order to address a problem from beginning to end.
Senior Vice President, Gooch and Housego
M.Sc. from: York University (Applied Physics)
The most important skill I learned was how to use resources and work with other people to approach and answer a scientific question or problem. Knowing how to source information, communicate and coordinate an effort will pay tremendous dividends regardless of what you end up doing in your career.
Assistant Professor, Appalachian State University
Ph.D. from: University of Maryland, College Park (Chemical Physics)
The most important skill I learned was how to teach myself. Someone with a Ph.D. must be able to work independently, solving problems or answering questions without help from others. This self-teaching skill allowed me to form solutions or answers not previously known.