I am maybe breaking one of my rules today. I am very, very sorry about this, but I am going to reference work done at one of the blogs at the journal Nature. Why am I so sorry? Because I am not sure that this information is freely available to people without a subscription and I hate talking about something not everyone has access to. Really, if you cannot access it, you have my most sincere apologies. But this article is just that valuable.
Recently, the naturejobs blog ran a piece that compiled the guest blog posts of 13 people who have made transitions into or out of academia. The stories are interesting and compelling. Each person outlined what drew them to science and how they continue to be engaged with the scientific community and research even when their careers lead them elsewhere. I will warn you that if you choose to read these blog-posts, there is one amazing woman who works as a science professor and writes novels in her spare time – do not let her intimidate you like she intimidates me.
But apart from showcasing the stories of people moving into and out of academia, the article really hits home a valuable lesson: it is possible to move into and out of academia. The academic track feels like a very strict, straight pipeline: you move from undergraduate to graduate student to post-doc (in some fields) to some sort of professorship until you make your way to tenure. There are few examples of deviation from that path. There are few examples of ways in which graduate degrees and graduate work can help develop skill sets that can lead to careers outside of academia. This blog series includes all of that, and boy is it a breath of fresh air.
Graduate degrees are valuable, in many cases more so for the skills learned while getting that degree than what the degree actually stands for. Stories of people taking their degrees and the resultant skill set and making careers beyond the traditional academic path work for them are increasingly important. The world is changing and academia needs to change with it. Acknowledging the potentially useful skill set gained through graduate work is one place to start.