[USA] Postgraduate options: Academia misses the mark

NatureJobs | 485, 535-536 (2012) | 23 May 2012 | by Karen Kaplan
Wednesday 25 July 2012
by  antonin
4 Votes

Careers advice offered at US institutes is lacking for doctoral students disillusioned with the prospect of an academic career.

A US study confirms what many observers of and participants in graduate-level science education have long suspected: that physical and natural-sciences graduate students become less interested in academic careers as they progress through their degrees. This is the latest study to suggest that there is an increase in disillusionment as students get closer to graduation.

According to the authors of the most recent report, the findings underscore the importance of broad-based career guidance and mentoring at US universities, as well as the growing need for university administrators, faculty members and advisers to provide students with information about the options in sectors such as industry, government and not-for-profit. It is also imperative, the authors add, for doctoral students to arm themselves with details about non-academic careers rather than relying on career-guidance services at their institutions.

The study, published on 2 May, surveyed life sciences, physics and chemistry PhD students at various stages of their programmes at top-level US research universities. Respondents in graduate programmes were asked to rate six career options and to recall how they had felt about them at the start of their PhD programme. Although a faculty post was an attractive career path for many students at the start of their programme, this preference slipped as students in all three disciplines advanced in their studies, with chemistry students showing the biggest drop (see ’Losing appeal’).

A small group of respondents in all three disciplines said that faculty members, supervisors, advisers and mentors encouraged them to pursue academic research as a career option, and discouraged other career choices, including industrial research. For example, 11% of life-sciences students reported receiving a negative reaction from their laboratory supervisor or department head about pursuing a position at either an established business or a start-up company. Policy-makers, professional associations and university administrators may therefore need to supplement the career information that graduate students receive from their supervisors, and the graduate curricula should have less of a focus on academia, say the authors. Study co-author Henry Sauermann, a researcher at the College of Management at Georgia Institute of Technology in Atlanta, adds that their findings illustrate the disparity between the career options that advisers suggest and what positions are actually available. Sauermann encourages doctoral students to bridge this gap by researching non-academic options themselves. “It would be nice for other people to provide more information for students, but faculty and advisers don’t have that experience,” he says. “You can’t expect the chair of the chemistry department to tell you what it’s like being a researcher in industry.”

The study’s results echo those of a Nature survey in June last year. A report co-authored by the US Council of Graduate Schools — which was compiled by university administrators and deans, industry executives and higher-education consultants, and surveyed graduate students, deans of graduate schools and employers — concluded that US universities, federal policy-makers and employers must coordinate their efforts to improve the career paths of postgraduates. “Successful career advice depends on information,” says Debra Stewart, president of the Council of Graduate Schools in Washington DC. “And one of the most important things we can do for students is to provide them with information about the career trajectory.”

JPEG - 39.2 kb

Efforts to diffuse the long-term focus on academic careers at UK institutions have been under way for about a decade, says Janet Metcalfe, head of Vitae, a research-career advisory organization in Cambridge, UK. Metcalfe notes that the 2002 ’Roberts report’ — named after its primary author, the UK scientist and education policy leader Gareth Roberts — recommended that early-career researchers receive broad-spectrum training in professional-development. As a result, she says, funds now exist to support such training at UK institutions. Vitae itself offers career guidance to junior scientists, and most universities have specialist careers advisers, Metcalfe adds.

Some top-tier US research universities have started to broaden the advice they give to science doctoral students, although there is a lingering pro-academic bias on the part of some faculty members. “Some professors probably think, ’You don’t need to go down that route’,” says Patricia Simpson, director of the Career Services Network in the School of Chemical Sciences at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. “But most are at least open to having their students talk with me.” She says that she counsels up to 175 graduate students a year on non-academic career options. Yuree Soh, an assistant director of the Careers Development Center at Stanford University, California, emphasizes that institutional career services are crucial. She has launched several programmes, including career fairs and alumni panels, at which students can network with alumni who are not in academic posts.

Many faculty members still don’t realize that only a tiny fraction of US postgraduates land a tenure-track academic research position, says Patrick Brandt, director of science, training and diversity at the University of North Carolina in Chapel Hill. Brandt, a former biochemist, has also initiated several career-advice programmes, including one in which former researchers talk about their non-academic careers. “We are ethically bound to provide broad-spectrum career guidance to rising biomedical scientists,” he says.

Soh says that those who are in a position to influence students are showing subtle, but encouraging, signs of a shift away from the pro-academia bias. “It’s not a tidal wave,” she says. “But more questions are being asked and there is more momentum building.”

by Karen Kaplan

Read on Nature website

commentaires article









Aucun évènement à venir les 2 prochains mois

News items

Les universités vont continuer à geler des postes en 2017

lundi 28 novembre 2016

La crise budgétaire des universités françaises continue depuis leur passage à l’ "autonomie" avec comme conséquence directe l’utilisation de la masse comme variable d’ajustement. Comment diminuer la masse salarial ? Embaucher des contractuels au lieu de titulaires, demander et ne pas payer des heures supplémentaires aux enseignants-chercheurs titulaires, supprimer des postes d’ATER et des contrats doctoraux ou encore geler des postes. Mais que signifie "geler des postes" ? Il s’agit de ne pas ouvrir à candidature des postes de titulaires ouverts par le ministères. Depuis 2009, 11.000 postes ont été gelés dans les universités dont 1200 les cinq dernières années. En 2017, ce processus continuera dans de nombreuses universités : Paris 1, Toulouse Paul Sabatier, Reims, Paris-Est Créteil, Dijon, Orléans, Brest, Paris 8, Bordeaux 3, Artois, Bretagne-Sud, Lyon 3, Limoges, Pau, Paris-Est Marne-la-Vallée.

New Analysis of Employment Outcomes for Ph.D.s in Canada

Thursday 5 February 2015

An analysis of where Canada’s Ph.D.-holders are employed finds that just 18.6 percent are employed as full-time university professors. The analysis from the Conference Board of Canada finds that nearly 40 percent of Ph.D.s are employed in higher education in some capacity, but many are in temporary or transitional positions. The other three-fifths are employed in diverse careers in industry, government and non-governmental organizations: “Indeed, employment in diverse, non-academic careers is the norm, not the exception, for Ph.D.s in Canada.” - Inside Higher Edu, January 8, 2015

[Sweden] New legislation to help foreign postgraduates stay on

Sunday 27 April 2014

On 1 July this year, new legislation will come into force in Sweden that includes measures which will make it considerably easier for foreign doctoral candidates and students to stay and work in the country after graduating.

An agreement between the outgoing Alliance government and the Swedish Green party will secure a majority vote for the proposal in the parliament. (...) – University World News, by Jan Petter Myklebust, 21 March 2014 Issue No:312

On the Web : Full news here

US : Dwindling tenure posts

vendredi 18 avril 2014

Tenure is dying out at US universities.

The proportion of non-tenure-track and non-tenured faculty posts continues to rise across all US institutions, finds a report by the American Association of University Professors (AAUP) in Washington DC. Losing Focus : The Annual Report on the Economic Status of the Profession, 201314 surveyed 1,159 public and private US institutions and found that the overall proportion of assistant professors in non-tenure-track posts was 23.4 for 201314, compared with 20.8 in 201011. Dwindling tenured and tenure-track posts threaten the ability of scientists to conduct research without interference from funders or administrators, says John Curtis, the report’s lead author and director of research and public policy for the AAUP. - Nature, 508, 277, 09 April 2014

Sur le Web : Read on nature.com

Les coupes budgétaires pèsent sur la recherche académique américaine

jeudi 12 décembre 2013

Aux USA, les répercussions des coupes budgétaires fédérales pour la recherche académique sont bien visibles selon une études récentes :

  • moins de place pour les étudiants dans les labos (stages, doctorat, ...) : - 31% ;
  • moins de CDD à temps partiel : -30% ;
  • moins de postdoctorants : - 24% ;
  • moins de postes fixes dans 22% des cas.

Une recherche académique en récession aux USA...

Soutenir par un don