Career Pathways

 

Tracking PhD Career Pathways

The University of Wisconsin–Madison Graduate School is part of a $2 million, multi-institutional grant aimed at studying PhD career pathways. Data collected throughout this project will be used for program improvement at participating institutions.

As part of the project, the University of Wisconsin Survey Center, which the Graduate School chose to administer the survey, will survey more than 7,000 alumni and 5,000 current PhD students across the arts, humanities, social, biological, and physical sciences.

Understanding PhD Career Pathways for Program Improvement is led by the Council of Graduate Schools (CGS) and funded by the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation and the National Science Foundation.

Project goals

  • Strengthen career support, professional development, and mentoring for current students
  • Gain insight into the relationship between doctoral training programs and career outcomes
  • Demonstrate the range of academic and nonacademic careers that PhD alumni pursue
  • Generate data to assess learning outcomes and inform program review
  • Initiate a system of employment tracking to extend into the future

Traditionally, PhD programs prepared students for the professoriate, but in recent decades, graduate career interests and matching career opportunities have broadened. They now land jobs in industry, non-profits and government sectors, become entrepreneurs and leaders – yet the path to this array of employment outcomes has gone largely unstudied.

William J. Karpus, Dean of the Graduate School

Data Briefs

The Graduate School released its first data brief from the Career Pathways project in August 2019. Check back soon for additional publications.

August 2019: Career Preferences, Outcomes, and Alignment

 

Project Highlights

80% of respondents said they were employed in a job closely related to their PhD major. Source: Understanding PhD Career Pathways for Program Improvement, June 2018.

Career Outcomes

  • More than 80% of respondents are employed in jobs closely related to their PhD majors.
  • More than 40% of the respondents are working in careers outside academia, although the rate varies significantly across the divisions. In Biological and Physical Sciences over 50% are working in careers outside academia, whereas only 20% are working outside academia in Social Sciences and Arts and Humanities divisions.

Program Satisfaction

  • Over 75% of the respondents felt that their programs prepared them either extremely well or very well for their careers.
More than 75% of respondents felt their programs prepared them extremely well or very well for their careers. Source: Understanding PhD Career Pathways for Program Improvement, June 2018.

Training and Professional Development

Respondents are broadly satisfied with campus’ professional and career development opportunities, with the exception of grant writing and leadership skills development.

Project Timeline

Summer 2017: The Council of Graduate Schools selects UW–Madison to take part in the $2 million, multi-institutional grant to study PhD career pathways.

Fall 2017: The Graduate School administers a PhD career outcomes survey to a sample of 2,200 doctoral alumni three, eight, and 15 years after graduation. The overall response rate is 33%.

Spring 2018: The Graduate School administers a career aspirations survey to a sample of 1,100 PhD students in their second and fifth years of study. The response rate is 43%.

Fall 2018: The Graduate School administers a PhD career outcomes survey to a second sample of 2,200 doctoral alumni three, eight, and 15 years after graduation. The response rate is 33%.

Winter 2019: The Graduate School publishes a data visualization of PhD employment outcomes based on the first two years of alumni survey data.

Spring 2019: The Graduate School administers a career aspirations survey to a second sample of 1,200 PhD students in their second and fifth years of study. The response rate is 32%.

Summer 2019: The Graduate School releases its first data brief, focused on PhD career preferences, outcomes, and alignment based on the first two years of student and alumni survey data.

Fall 2019: The Graduate School administers a PhD career outcomes survey to a third sample of approximately 2,200 doctoral alumni three, eight, and 15 years after graduation. The Graduate School also releases a second data brief focused on PhD training and professional development based on the first two years of student and alumni survey data.

Spring 2020: The Graduate School administers a career aspirations survey to a third sample of approximately 1,100 PhD students in their second and fifth years of study.

For questions about the Career Pathways project at UW-Madison, contact data@grad.wisc.edu.