Traditionally, graduate students have tended to progress into academic roles on graduation. With number of graduates with advanced degrees increasing (an almost five-fold increase since the early 1980s), graduate career paths are gradually becoming more diverse.
A 2011 StatCan report on the Expectations and Labor Market Outcomes of Doctoral Graduates from Canadian Universities revealed some clear information on PhD destinations in Canada, including the following:
- 77% of doctoral graduates in arts/humanities disciplines progressed into careers in “Educational Services”. (Not all of these graduates were working as lecturers or researchers. Many were in “alternative” academic roles such as administrative, program management and other leadership roles within the university environment. Others may have been working as secondary or college teachers or the private sector).
- The outcomes vary sharply by discipline. Only 34% of PhD graduates of engineering were found to be working in “Educational Services”, 51% of life science PhDs and 56% of computer science PhDs.
- Over a third of engineering PhDs work in “professional, scientific and technical services”, along with 18% of computer science PhDs and 14% of life science PhDs.
- 16% of PhDs of life science disciplines were working in healthcare and social assistance.
It would seem that well-worn paths have been established from some doctoral programs to professional career paths beyond education and academia. For some disciplines, new ground will be forged. One of the most exciting things about today’s job market is that so many work roles and projects are being created each year.
See the following link for 10 in-demand jobs that didn’t even exist 10 years ago!
One way to view career pathways of graduate students is to consider them according to three key categories:
Careers directly related to your graduate research, e.g. Lecturer, Post-Doc
Careers indirectly related to your graduate research, e.g. Consultant, Spin-off Entrepreneur, Teacher, Academic Librarian, Science Writer, “Alt-Ac” Professional
Career paths in field not related to your graduate research but personally appealing nonetheless e.g. Law, Management, Finance, Accounting, Computer Science, Business Development
For graduate students with an eye on “first wave” careers, skills such as networking, career management and relationship building skills have become more important than ever.
Building industry knowledge and personal connections in “third wave” career paths will take a little more effort and ingenuity, as these fields are usually far removed from the world in which you’ve been immersed.
Navigating the complexity of options to choose from requires in-depth knowledge of:
- Yourself (your strengths, personality and marketable skills) and,
- The job market (industry-specific knowledge, areas of projected growth and the overall landscape).
One of the most effective ways to research second or third wave careers of interest while simultaneously making connections is to find, join and participate in professional and/or industry societies and associations. Many associations offer free/reduced memberships to students, in addition to free entry to their events. Find out more about networking with local industry and professional associations nnetworking.