Grad degrees being used less for academic careers

Leslie Brandt wonâÄôt be using her Ph.D. in ecology, evolution and behavior to find a teaching career after she graduates this year. âÄúIt just didnâÄôt fit into my goals in life,âÄù Brandt said about an academic career. âÄúI just wanted to be able to settle down in one place and kind of have a life and be able to earn enough money to live on.âÄù Getting an academic graduate degree used to automatically equal a teaching career, but that is no longer the case, and Brandt is a part of the trend for graduate students to explore opportunities outside of academia after they graduate. In fact, at the University, less than half of the schoolâÄôs doctoral and master students are interested in pursuing academic careers, according to a fall 2008 Council of Graduate Students survey. Instead, students are looking into everything from nonprofit positions to federal jobs. The reason for studentsâÄô interest in alternative careers, however, cannot be pinpointed to one issue. A University of California at Berkeley study found graduate students are choosing different careers for a variety of reasons, including issues relating to salary concerns, family issues, negative student experiences, job location and the state of the academic job market. The University of Minnesota Graduate School has taken notice, Associate Dean Shirley Garner said. Although these numbers are close to what was shown in the 2006 COGS study, Garner said its part of a long-term trend. According to Garner, the University is encouraging graduate programs to help students pursue alternative careers. âÄúThat has been an emphasis on this for some time and a kind of recognition that people are choosing other futures for themselves and we arenâÄôt any longer just educating people to become faculty member or in academia at all,âÄù Garner said. Tenure-track faculty positions hard to find Faculty positions at universities across the country are limited and competition is fierce, which can turn students away, Brandt said. âÄúThe truth is that less than half the people with Ph.D. end up getting a tenured track faculty job ever,âÄù Brandt said. Tenure is becoming harder to get in addition to the fact that academic careers donâÄôt always play into a studentâÄôs interest. For Carol Powers, who will soon have a Ph.D. in applied plant sciences, a teaching career doesnâÄôt make sense because she wants to focus on research. Even at research universities, some of her time would have to be devoted to the classroom. In field orientated jobs, there are more options outside of academics, she said. Location concerns StudentsâÄô desire to stay in one place is keeping them from academic careers as well. Although University students donâÄôt necessarily want to end up staying in Minnesota, they also donâÄôt want to end up in a city they wouldnâÄôt like. The general expectation for an academic job is that youâÄôll have to move, John Li, a third-year graduate student studying epidemiology at the School of Public Health, said. âÄúIf you want to stick in academia, a lot of times you have to go where the jobs are,âÄù Li said. âÄúYou have to pay your dues.âÄù Family restraints But paying your âÄòduesâÄô isnâÄôt an option everyone can consider, especially when they have other family members. For Li, a father of two, a non-academic job will likely be a more realistic goal since his family has already put down their roots in Minnesota, and he doesnâÄôt want to move them. There will be more job opportunities outside of colleges for him, he said. Women who want families are worried about the impact a academic career could have on their lives as well, Powers and Brandt said. Since a faculty position usually requires additional and time-consuming experience after graduation, women might not get the chance to have children until their late 30s, Powers and Brandt said. âÄúIf youâÄôre going to become a faculty member, youâÄôre probably not going to even mention you might not want to be full time until after you have tenure,âÄù Powers said. âÄúAll of sudden youâÄôre looking at starting a family very late.âÄù