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.
- 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
- 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.
- Over 75% of the respondents felt that their programs prepared them either extremely well or very well for their careers.
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.
July 2017: UW–Madison was selected to take part in the $2 million, multi-institutional grant to study PhD career pathways
Fall 2017: The Graduate School administered the PhD career outcomes and aspiration survey to nearly 2,200 doctoral alumni 3, 8, and 15 years after graduation. The response rate was 33 percent.
Spring 2018: The Graduate School administered the survey to 1,000 current doctoral students in their 2nd and 5th years of study. The response rate was 43 percent.
Next steps: In spring 2019, institutions participating in the Career Pathways project will release the next round of data, focused on the results from the student survey administered in spring 2018.