From On Wisconsin 
A publication for University of Wisconsin-Madison Alumni and Friends 

Summer, 2001

On Wisconsin Volume 102, no. 2, p. 9

PhDs failing school of life

American doctoral education doesn't give students "what they want, nor does it prepare them for the jobs they take," says Chris Golde of the Wisconsin Center for Education Research.  She and Timothy Dore surveyed more than four thousand PhD candidates at twenty-seven U.S. universities and found that, quite often, America's most highly educated people aren't ready for life after school.

A particular failing of doctoral education, Golde and Dore found, was its inability to prepare PhD candidates for finding careers outside academia.  "The process seems to be shrouded in opacity," said Golde.  "It's more mysterious than it needs to be."

Nearly two-thirds of the forty thousand U.S. doctoral candidates who graduate each year desire a tenure-track faculty position.  However, no more than half of that total will end up getting such a job.

"This continues to be surprising, disappointing, and embittering to [PhD candidates]," says Golde, "even though it isn't new news."

If doctoral education is to become more responsive, she suggests, students will have to become less passive about asking for what they want, and faculty advisers will have to think more about what skills students may need to pursue non-academic careers.  Such communication is vital, she says, because "in too many cases, doctoral programs and doctoral students are operating at cross purposes."


Copyright 2001 Wisconsin Alumni Association. All rights reserved.


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