The job listings that get sent around through the departmental mailing list are picking up in full force now that the academic year is underway. While most listings are for post-doctoral and tenure-track positions at R1 universities, every once in a while, a teaching position at a primarily undergraduate institution gets sent around, and in that moment, the variety of academic jobs becomes obvious. The thing is: most students seem to be only prepared for the R1 track.
Actually, let me start off by acknowledging that different disciplines and institutions will handle things differently. I know that on my campus, two graduate groups in similar fields get pushed in different directions: one is exclusively geared towards R1 careers, and the other, while still focused on the R1, tends to provide a bit more preparation for work outside of academia. But in both cases, R1 careers are still front and center.
So here I am speaking broadly about the general culture of academia where graduate students are molded to be future PIs, even when PI jobs are decreasing in number. R1 isn’t the only option ““ so why is it treated as such?
Part of it is easy: at R1 institutions, undergraduate and graduate students are going through school getting mentored by those who decided to stay and pursue that R1 career option. This is the career path those professors and mentors understand the best having lived it for however many years. But even accounting for that, there is surprisingly little support for students who wish to pursue primarily teaching positions, positions at community colleges, or heck, even look for things outside of the Ivory Tower.
Career center and departmental workshops are definitely valuable resources. If the career center doesn’t offer resume and CV writing workshops or information sessions about seeking employment at a community college/outside of academia/etc, then consider meeting one-on-one with a career counselor and seeing what you can work out. But recognizing that the PhD is a valuable degree and that the graduate school experience is a valuable experience for a variety of careers would not only increase the marketability of these degrees, but would provide students with many more options after graduation.
I strongly believe in the value of a master’s degree or PhD for people in a wide variety of fields and occupations. Students who are interested in these fields and occupations should have access to the professional development resources that will allow them to succeed.
So how about you? Did you feel prepared for a job in or out of academia after/during graduate school?