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Thursday, April 13, 2017

Sharp differences in career paths of PhD grads across fields, UBC study finds | The Globe and Mail

Photo: Simona Chiose
"A new study to be released Thursday from the University of British Columbia has found that approximately a third of its doctoral graduates end up working in traditional academic positions as professors, but that there are sharp differences in the career outcomes of graduates across different fields." according to Simona Chiose, EDUCATION REPORTER — The Globe and Mail.

UBC’s study delves deeper into differences between fields and reveals how career paths change over time. Graduates in some fields have much better outcomes than in others. For example, it takes science graduates up to 10 years of working as a postdoctoral researcher before they land a tenure-track job.
Photo: (dhavatar/Getty Images/iStockphoto)

About a third of the humanities grads the study surveyed found a tenure-track, research-intensive academic job, but only a fifth of those in engineering chose that path. And while the overall unemployment rate was less than 2 per cent, 7.5 per cent of humanities PhDs reported they were looking for work.

The report is based on the labour-market outcomes of almost 4,000 PhD graduates, from 2005 to 2013.

“We as a society have put massive amounts of energy and resources into educating graduate students,” said Susan Porter, the dean of graduate studies at UBC and vice-provost. “Given that the careers we see now are not what they were many decades ago, are we educating them to be the best they can be in the world? That was an important question to ask,” she said.

The study is the latest to examine what kind of jobs PhD holders pursue, part of a national debate about whether Canada’s economy is fully capitalizing on the skills and training of advanced degree holders. The number of people with doctoral credentials has jumped over the last decade but tenure-track jobs have not kept pace.

Multiple studies over the past two years have found that a minority of PhDs become professors.

UBC’s study delves deeper into differences between fields and reveals how career paths change over time. Graduates in some fields have much better outcomes than in others. For example, it takes science graduates up to 10 years of working as a postdoctoral researcher before they land a tenure-track job.

“It’s distressing the age at which some of these people really settle down to a career – that is both for themselves and for what they can contribute during their lifetime,” Dr. Porter said.

Such findings resonate at McGill University, home to the nationwide Trace project which has been examining the career outcomes of PhD grads from many Canadian universities with funding from the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council. Part of the project has been the collection and online posting of life stories from graduates themselves.


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