Tips on how graduate students can get high paying jobs outside the academy (opinion)
What can you do with a doctorate in a liberal arts discipline? A glance at my Twitter feed tells me that graduate students shouldn’t ask their academic advisors this question, as most of them seem to think the only option is to pursue tenure-track employment. This is a real problem, given the scarcity of tenure-track positions in the liberal arts – a fact difficult for students to face, especially when they have invested a lot of time and money in securing graduation. a terminal diploma.
Who is responsible for creating this disconnect between the expectations of so many graduate students and the realities of the job market leading to tenure? Students are, as are their advisers and other faculty members.
If you are a graduate student who thinks you have a better than average chance of landing a tenure-track job, then you haven’t done your homework on this career area. And even if it does, I feel – again, via Twitter – that many of you haven’t given much thought to how to leverage your knowledge, skills, and knowledge. their abilities to get well-paying jobs outside the academy. Or you hadn’t by the time you posted this post about tenure-track employment.
If you’re a faculty member who isn’t intentionally preparing graduate students for this reality and helping them strategize on the types of non-college careers they can get, you have room for improvement. You see, you are already engaging in career counseling when you socialize your students to work toward the goal of having a career as a teacher. But it’s a hyper-narrow form of counseling that doesn’t meet the needs of many of your students.
You don’t have to worry about finding the answer to this problem because higher education already has it. Take, for example, black studies. We regularly provide undergraduate students with resources that answer the question “What can I do with a degree in Black Studies?” Teachers in other programs do the same for their students.
In addition, many institutions, such as the University of Cabrini, where I work, have courses for university success or first year experience that cover the subject of selecting an academic major and then its mapping to career options. What is the result of these efforts? Students have a much better idea of the types of jobs and careers they might find fulfilling and this helps them pay off their student loans as well.
As educators, we can do more on this subject. I teach Pro-seminar: Applying Black Studies, a three-credit undergraduate course in which I guide students on how to use their black studies training to prepare for life after graduation. One credit of this course covers qualitative research skills; Students work in groups and learn to create and administer a survey to collect data on a problem facing people of African descent. They prepare for this by performing a literature review on the problem, then produce a formal report on the results of their investigation, which includes suggestions on how to resolve the problem. Employers want such general interpersonal and collaborative communication skills in those they hire. In addition, the research and writing aspects are essential for students who wish to pursue higher education, especially those in social sciences.
The other two credits of the course are your career and employment, your graduate studies applications, and your interviews. For your career, students develop a personalized strategy for choosing a meaningful career path in which they can use their Black Studies degree. They work towards this goal by performing a thoughtful self-assessment, then explore and plan possible careers with guidance from me and the Cabrini Center for Career and Professional Development. Together, we strategize on the types of jobs that speak to the heart and mind of every student, and students actively seek an internship in these areas to gain experiences that affirm or challenge their beliefs and desires. regarding the types of careers they want.
In graduate and job applications and interviews, students refine the types of professional knowledge and skills they will need to be successful candidates for graduate programs and employment opportunities. Students also learn to think creatively and strategically about which graduate programs will be best for them in terms of getting the education and degrees they need and need for their careers. I also teach students how to describe and discuss, both orally and in writing, their academic, professional and personal achievements so that graduate admissions committees and hiring managers see them as highly qualified candidates. .
Such a student-centered, discipline-focused career planning course could and should be replicated at the graduate level. I am by no means offering a unique solution. Each institution and program should leverage the specific expertise and skills of its faculty members and synchronize them with the career office offerings. Equally important, institutions should offer faculty development programs to train and enhance faculty members’ skills in this vital aspect of their work, and faculty members should demand this program.
The benefits of such training and career preparation are numerous. Graduate students will have a more realistic vision of their future and will be more successful in achieving their goals. Many will not feel like they have been fooled into spending too much time and money on an experience that they believe has such a low return on investment, both personally and financially. As a result, students are likely to have a more positive feeling about their alma maters, which could then lead to increased contributions to them in the future.
Faculty members will also benefit from this change in professional culture. Students who are well prepared for their future are less likely to feel that their advisors have let them down. Attrition rates will decrease as many students will have a greater incentive to complete their degrees as quickly as possible as they will have learned to use their transferable skills – independent and in-depth research, technical writing, project management, etc. get jobs in non-academic careers. This would attract positive attention to programs, especially when the financial demands of higher education cause administrators to seek to reduce those with low enrollment and graduation rates.
So what can you do with a doctorate? It turns out that a lot. As professors, we must become better at training students to see the myriad possibilities that await them after graduation. They will be happier for it, and so will we.