5 thoughts on “What kinds of resources and experiences are most effective in making multiple career pathways tangible to graduate students and postdoctoral researchers?

  1. I lecture to grad students and post-docs at universities all over the country, and this is one of the most common questions I get, to the point that I have started offering a separate lecture just about alternative careers for science Ph.D.s. The demand seems to stem partly from the fact that I was a science graduate student myself, and ended up doing something else (actually several different things) with my career, and that most graduate students are only exposed to professional who followed one particular pathway; that of a tenure-track faculty member. The truth is that the addition of ANY resources or experiences that expose grad students to careers outside of academia would be helpful, but particularly useful would be a chance for students to see and hear from people who took their degrees and went to do something else.
    Ideally, that would take the form of some sort of interactive digital space, where professionals with advanced degrees could report the stories of their personal experiences, the path that their careers took, and the skills that they acquired (or wished they’d acquired) to allow them to advance to where they are today. This advice would be especially useful if it came from people who received their degrees relatively recently (< 10 yrs ago). There are a tremendous number of opportunities out there, and a scientific education is good preparation for LOTS of other pursuits, but it would help if there was a showcase that highlighted some of those other pathways, and those who have successfully blazed trails down them.
    My hunch is that the lack of any such information not only puzzles current grad students, but discourages rising undergrads from pursuing an advanced degree, a problem I imagine is especially acute among people from groups that are under-represented in the sciences.

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  2. Thanks for your reply timmillerb, and I completely agree. In fact, that is why I want to ask him this particular question:
    Do you mind telling us a bit more about the various different roles you mention in your post, I was curious about that. Or if you have a particular link to your class.

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  3. Agree all around. My fear is that the target population (students) might not see it as worth their while to read about alternative careers if it was put online. Grad students get so busy and reading these may not rise to the top of their crazy schedules. There may be some out there that have studied this, but I’m not sure if we are allowed to post data-crunched findings here. Any grad students out there with anecdotal information want to chime in? I also might be way off the mark, and in that case I like the online profiles.

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  4. I believe that most grad students get stuck with experiments in their lab and don’t take time to get to know about the world outside! I am interested in careers outside of academia. I have made it a point to participate in atleast one event/talk a semester about career options outside of academia. I couldn’t have thought about all the opportunities that exist if I had not made this decision! So in my opinion attending networking events early on in grad school would be helpful. I believe that mentors should also encourage students to do this instead of asking them for results all the time!

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  5. The best experience is to actually spend time in different career paths. There needs to be more opportunities to get students to work in industry, consulting, government, etc before they need to decide their future goals. There are so many different career paths that a STEM PhD can take, but many students will focus on academia since other options are wrongly considered “risky”.

    Also, advisers need to allow their students to spend time away from research to explore other options. There are so many advisers who will not allow students to do internships or punish them in some way for doing them (whether intended or not).

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