Graduate students will be able to receive advice and view old doctoral candidate’s resumes and cover letters through a career-development program the graduate school purchased in the fall.
This university’s graduate school added the online resource Versatile PhD in September, and it became active in December. The program can help graduate students prepare for career paths in humanities, STEM fields and social sciences, said Paula Chambers, the site’s founder.
“This is just one of the resources we plan to make available for our graduate and Ph.D. students,” said Mark Shayman, the associate dean of the graduate school for student success. “It’s very important because there’s an evolution going on for career placements for doctoral students.”
Traditionally, research institutions like this university have trained doctoral candidates to enter careers in academia. However, Shayman said there could be more students earning doctorates than there are positions in a given field.
“Part of it is that faculties are not growing at all and professors are not retiring until a later age, so positions are less available,” he said.
Versatile has a range of career options, which users select to view a breakdown of the career’s specific demands and a brief overview on preparation for the field. The program is available to all enrolled graduate students, said Jeffrey Franke, graduate school assistant dean and chief of staff.
The plan to promote multiple career paths for graduate students is one of the main initiatives for the university’s graduate administration, Franke said. The administration also is looking to partner with other programs to increase networking, he said.
“We’re in the planning stages of having multiple workshops on campus,” Shayman said. “Versatile PhD is just one facet. We are working to educate our faculty members so they can support students pursuing nonacademic careers.”
The Graduate Student Government, along with the administration, is starting to promote the program, said Deborah Hemingway, GSG president and a fourth-year biophysics doctoral candidate.
“We’re very thankful the graduate administration is paying attention and supporting students in other career paths,” Hemingway said. “We really appreciate them responding to the students’ need for multiple career preparations.”
The site has a community of about 50,000 members, half of whom are students at a subscribing university. In addition, about 12 percent, or 6,000, of the total members are doctoral candidates already in nonacademic fields. This allows current graduate students to connect with those already working in nonacademic disciplines.
About 80 universities are subscribed to Versatile PhD.
“[The subscribed universities] are the one’s accepting the idea that Ph.D. students must move outside academic fields,” Chambers said. “Plus, when universities subscribe, they also get an opportunity to publicly show a commitment to broadening their graduates’ degrees.”