Career Paths for Those with a Ph.D.

Dear Commons Community,

The Chronicle of Higher Education had an article yesterday describing a program, Preparing Future Faculty, that helps Ph.D. graduates find positions appropriate for their degree.  As described by the Chronicle:  The goal of the program is to introduce Ph.D. students and postdocs on campuses nationwide to the realities of being a professor. The program exposes them to what faculty life looks like at the kinds of colleges where they’re most likely to be hired. The article goes on to describe Duke University’s efforts with the program.

“Its participants, known as fellows, visit nearby institutions that are starkly different from Duke, including private liberal-arts colleges, a historically black college, a community college, a women’s college, and a sprawling land-grant institution, where they sit in on undergraduate classes and talk with faculty members, administrators, and students. Faculty mentors on those campuses talk frankly to them about the demands of academic life, and provide insider tips on conducting academic job searches, among other things.

In the end, not every fellow becomes a professor, but that outcome is not unexpected. “Ph.D.s can do many, many things with their degree,” says Hugh Crumley, the program’s director and assistant dean for academic affairs, who holds a doctorate from the University of Virginia. “And Duke has plenty of programs to help them figure out what that is.”

Chronicle analysis of 12 cohorts of the Duke program, from 2004-5 to 2015-16, reveals what became of the vast majority of the fellows. Of the pool of almost 350 people, The Chronicle was able to track down 93 percent of them, and they ended up as follows:

  • 47 percent are now academics, of whom 87 percent are tenured or on the tenure track.
  • 26 percent have a job in the private sector, in government, or at a nonprofit organization.
  • 5 percent hold nonteaching, nonresearch positions at a college or university.
  • 4 percent work as university research scientists.
  • 2.5 percent run their own businesses or work for themselves.
  • 15.5 percent, usually the most recent participants, are doing postdocs or finishing up their Ph.D.s.

The paths that the program’s fellows took reflect many things: individuals’ choices and evolution, quirks of fate, and forces outside of their control, like the flagging academic job market or the hypercompetitive environment for federal research grants.”

The article concludes with stories of four Ph.D. graduates and their current employment.

Students and colleagues here at the CUNY Graduate Center may find the Chronicle piece interesting reading.



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