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Science Careers Blog

September 28, 2011

How to Help Graduates Move into Careers

Finding a suitable and sustainable career is a major challenge for new Ph.D.s not only in the United States but in nations around the world.  Thirty-five leading academic figures representing 16 countries, including such major Ph.D. producers as the U.S., China, India, Canada and Korea, have been looking for answers at the Fifth Annual Strategic Leaders Global Summit, sponsored by the Council of Graduate Schools and the University of Hong Kong.

Today they issued a statement of "Principles and Practices for Building Pathways from Graduate Schools to Careers."  Among the recommendations: graduate schools and professors should play a "key role in ensuring that students are aware of, and prepared for, a wide array of careers in the academic, public and private sectors."  To accomplish this, universities should provide students "the opportunity to develop essential transferable skills."

Universities must also "expand the capacity to track careers patterns and outcomes" of their alumni and use the information to "inform and improve the quality of graduate eduction."  Faculty who mentor graduate students, furthermore, should get "the information and support needed to prepare students for the wide diversity of careers available to them."  This will require universities and faculty members to have "a solid understanding of the conceptual and personal skills" need for success in various careers.

We couldn't have said it better ourselves.  But merely stating principles provides neither the incentives nor the wherewithal for universities and faculty members to make the needed cultural, attitudinal, and practical changes.  The financial stringencies facing many countries further complicate the possibility of taking on new initiatives   

Still, even a statement of support can help get ideas circulating in academic conversation.  Here's hoping this statement inspires some change.  With national competitiveness a major issue these days, maybe it could even spur a global competition to produce the most career-ready Ph.D.s.

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