Understanding Differences between Academic and Industry Conferences

Understanding Differences between Academic and Industry Conferences

As the School of Advanced Studies moves forward with the ongoing growth in our research community, we’re working to provide students and faculty with as much information as needed to support research goals and help both groups find a balance between academic and practitioner pursuits. A large part of this process is becoming more actively involved in your field of research, both within University of Phoenix and the School of Advanced Studies and beyond.

We noted in this recent blog post that selecting a research conference to attend can be a complex process, but to an active practitioner it adds another level of complexity as you attempt to juggle time spent in industry-specific events versus academia.

Industry vs Academic Conferences

These differences may seem obvious to many readers but to those newer to research it’s important to clarify what sets these two apart. As noted by Research Center Chair James Gillespie, Ph.D., J.D., “the biggest differences has to do with the attendees.”

It’s true; the attendees are what set these two types of conferences apart from each other. Academic conferences attract academics – individuals and teams deeply involved with research programs, primarily at Universities and research institutes – whereas industry conferences attract practitioners at all levels. Additionally, the value of what is learned at these events is often a product of groundswell: the attendees are drawn to the course of discussion topic, which shapes the event over time, and can directly impact how productive the conversation is during and after the event.

As a result, there are many pros and cons to attending either. Let’s dig deeper.

What are Your Goals?

As mentioned in our last article, this is the most important piece of the puzzle. You may be in the envious position of being able to attend multiple conferences throughout the year. For those who are not the time and money spent on attending any large conference must be worthwhile. Ask yourself the following questions to better identify which type of conference to attend:

  • Who are you looking to connect with? An industry conference means connecting with a broader set of people within your industry while an academic conference often means connecting with others pursuing research interests similar to your own.
  • Are you more interested in research opportunities or opportunities for professional advancement? While both types of conferences provide networking opportunities that can lead to professional advancement, if you’re looking for co-authors, shovel-ready projects, or other research-specific connections, a high-quality academic conference is the better choice.
  • Are you looking to build your credibility and add to your C.V.? At a high quality conference, submissions to present are peer-reviewed. This is not always the case with industry conferences. If you choose to submit and are accepted, the credibility of the conference is critical to the value of time spent presenting. 


The University of Phoenix is known for supporting working professionals as they pursue higher-level learning. As a result, many of our educators have varying degrees of expertise spanning both research-focused and practitioner-focused pursuits.

There is no rule of thumb as each individual must set their own course and neither faculty nor students have restrictions on how they prioritize. Instead, we encourage each person to understand the difference and its impact on meeting your professional goals.

What conferences do you choose to attend and why?


Darcel Gibson's picture Darcel Gibson | September 19, 2015 11:02 am MST

I attended the Knowledge without Boundaries because I wanted to really learn more about the different centers, but learn a few things about reviewing my problem and purpose statements, qualitative research and quantitative research techniques, and any new software being used to do research studies. Meet and connect with different people, possibly, get tips om finding committee persons to work with me on getting my dissertation ready for the IRB.

I liked the idea of helping collaborate with others on researching different topics in diversity because I found diversity to be interesting in which my dissertation topic falls right in. I want to know more about various topics in diversity and jow I can contribute to the business world.

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