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Vital Questions About Tracking Placement Data

This past year, I worked with the American Historical Association on its placement study. We were thrilled at the detail and depth we achieved using publicly available data to track 2,500 history Ph.D.’s who graduated between 1998-2009.

I am a great proponent of comprehensive placement studies because they can help shatter the myth that a tenure-track job is the only successful outcome of a Ph.D. Like many graduate students and Ph.D.’s, I, too, would like to see program-specific placement data….

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3 Things I’ve Learned About Ph.D. Students and Placement

I’ve written about the ins and outs (and quirks) of the academic workplace for The Chronicle for the last five years. So there are some things about finding employment after graduate school that I just know to be true. Most people on the academic job market think landing a tenure-track position is a crapshoot. Many advisers can’t help their students find work outside of academe. And accurate information on Ph.D. placement is hard to come by.

But while doing the reporting for an article about how…

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The Ph.D.-Industry Gap

Imagine you’re a brand-new Porsche in 2011. You’re sitting in a dealership, being test-driven by many enamored consumers but never purchased. Later you hear that the 2011 Toyota Camry outsold the Lexus 1.5 to 1, the Cadillac 2 to 1, and the Porsche 10 to 1. You ask yourself: Was it worth being an impressive, expensive car, if no one ever buys you?

That ironic situation is very real for many Ph.D.’s. I faced it myself after getting my master’s and doctorate in computer science from Stanford Unive…

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What Informational Interviews Can Do for You

Ph.D.’s in the early stages of a career transition out of academe express frustration at how difficult it can be to find a nonacademic job. They don’t know what else they can do that will be interesting or where to look for job ads. They spend hours crafting résumés and job letters, send them out, and then never hear anything back. “What am I doing wrong?,” they ask.

My advice: Begin your career transition by setting up informational interviews. For most Ph.D.’s, that is news to them. What is an…

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‘The Afternoon I Decided to Leave Academe’–and What Happened Next

Many Ph.D.’s who write about leaving academe knew it was not for them. I envy those people. I enjoyed being an academic, and I loved teaching. As a kid growing up, all I wanted to be was a teacher, and when I entered university, my career goal shifted to being a professor. When I decided to end my quest for a tenure-track job, I told a friend that, some day, I hoped I would enjoy whatever I ended up doing as much as I enjoyed teaching and being a historian.

I will never forget the afternoon I de…

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Open-Mindedness and the Ph.D. Placement Problem

Alexandra Lord

Alexandra Lord

So far on this blog we’ve been explaining how The Chronicle is going about the challenge of collecting data to achieve the goals of the Ph.D. Placement Project. We’re now opening up the blog to outside voices, to help illustrate the situation faced by many new Ph.D.’s, and in so doing to show what we’re trying to accomplish with the project. The following guest post is by Alexandra Lord, a historian who blogs, among other things, about nonacademic jobs for Ph.D. recipients.

When I…

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What Associations Have to Say

We’ve been reaching out to various disciplinary organizations to get a better sense of what information on Ph.D. placement is already being collected. Given the reach and resources of those associations, we hoped they might make good starting places in gathering data. We started with a list of about 50 organizations, and so far we’ve received responses from about 30.

It turns out that some, such as the American Historical Association, are already deep into their own efforts to get comprehensive …

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We’re Moving on 2 Fronts

The responses to our first job-placement survey have been overwhelming and passionate. Thanks to the more than 2,000 of you who gave us so many thoughtful responses, either through the survey or to our inboxes. You’ve given us a huge head start. Now that we’re entering the second stage of the project, we’ve closed the survey. (If you didn’t get a chance to share your thoughts, please contribute in the comments below, or send us a note.)

As we comb through the information we’ve collected so far, …

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The Challenges of Gathering Data on Ph.D. Placements

We’ve saved the most complicated—and most interesting—question for our last post on findings from our informal survey for The Chronicle’s Ph.D. Placement Project: “What should we expect will be the most difficult part of gathering reliable data? How would you suggest doing it?”

Here’s what responders thought would be the most challenging:

  • Deciding what counts as an “authoritative” source: Do we gather data from Ph.D.’s themselves? From departments? From advisers? Who is most likely to respond? …
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What Were You Told When You Applied?

Many academic departments would get a failing grade if they were evaluated on how much information they provided to prospective graduate students on job placement. In The Chronicle’s informal survey on the topic, we asked, “When you applied to graduate programs, what sort of information, if any, did departments offer you on their job-placement rates?”

More than 1,200 Ph.D.’s responded to the survey, but large numbers had little to report on that question. Here is a representative sampling of the…