Friday, May 11, 2012

Data On Career Preference

Hum... I don't think I've ever seen this type of data/survey before. This is a report on a recent survey of graduate students in science and how their career preference change over time as they go through their graduate program.

Here's the result that has gotten the most press: Academic research careers were less popular with the late cohorts than the early ones in all disciplines, suggesting, perhaps, that graduate students are disillusioned by exposure to the lives and careers of their faculty advisers.
There's a breakdown of the study into various subject areas, and you may read that for yourself.

But the implication to such a shift is interesting, and something that I've tried to instill into students who are interested in majoring in physics.

Instead, we should all be worrying about the difficulty Ph.D. graduates often have locating jobs in, and making transitions into, some of those other work sectors that they appear to view favorably. We also need to worry about whether science careers in any sector are sufficiently rewarding, remunerative, and stable to justify the long time investment, the frustrations of training, and the forgone earnings; if they're not, we can't expect the most capable young people to choose careers in science. Instead, they'll choose other careers with better prospects, like finance or figuring out how to make people click on banner ads on Facebook.

We should also worry about whether those students are receiving the training they need to compete for jobs in sectors beyond academia. Our graduate programs already do the most important thing extremely well: The best way to convey strong analytical skills is to teach students to be outstanding researchers. But there is plenty of room for improvement when it comes to even the most basic professional skills.
Definitely! It is a FACT that there aren't that many tenure-track faculty positions in most fields, and this includes physics. Students going into such fields with the sole aim to obtain such a position need to have a reality check so that they can best prepare for other possible careers.


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