WASHINGTON, D.C. – Graduate schools must do a better job of communicating what kinds of employment opportunities await students once they complete their degrees, and partnering with the private sector is one of the best ways to do it.
That was one of the key recommendations that a series of speakers reiterated Thursday at a forum on Capitol Hill detailing a new report titled “Pathways Through Graduate School and Into Careers.”
The collaborative goal is easier said than done, said panelist Dr. Freeman Hrabowski III, president of the University of Maryland, Baltimore County.
“Culture change is very difficult on campuses,” Hrabowski said. “Most people are not accustomed to thinking about – as faculty members – where somebody is going once they graduate.”
The report found that while most students relied on faculty to provide career information, “many of these faculty understandably are only aware of their own career trajectories and are uninformed about pathways beyond academe.”
“In reality, we found that graduate degree holders work in a wide variety of settings,” the report says.
Hrabowski said he often hears graduate students indicate that they will start to think about work after they finish writing their dissertations.
“That’s a very bad idea,” Hrabowski said, suggesting that many students will end up “waiting on tables” if they don’t become more intentional about their career plans while they are still in school.
Panelist Dwight Hutchins, managing director for strategy at Accenture, a global management consulting, technology services and outsourcing company, said a graduate degree often serves to distinguish job candidates.
“We get over two million resumes,” Hutchins said as spoke of the 60,000 people the company hired worldwide last year. “As we look for talent, increasingly graduate degrees are a differentiator for the type of people that we’re looking for.
“When you make a conscious choice to go back and get a degree, or continue your degree, you’re sending a very strong signal to employers that that particular area of interest is of interest to you,” Hutchins said.
The key is to get universities and businesses to talk to each other more often and focus more heavily on and document where graduate students land once they complete their degrees, said Dr. Patrick Osmer, Vice Provost for Graduate Studies and Dean of the Graduate School at Ohio State University.
To accomplish this, the report released Thursday states that universities should:
n Track career outcomes and job placement for graduate students;
n Broaden the focus of graduate education to include development of professional skills; and
n Provide opportunities for graduate school faculty to engage with industry, government and other sectors.
Employers, the report states, should:
n Enhance and expand collaborative relationships with universities;
n Make strategic investments in graduate education programs; and
n Provide internship and research opportunities for graduate students.
Federal policymakers should also get involved, the report states, by providing federal support to studies that help illuminate pathways from graduate school to the workforce and by giving funding priority to proposals from collaborations between business and universities.
“It’s about these partnerships,” Osmer said. “No one group of universities, employers and policymakers can do it on their own.”
Thursday’s forum was staged jointly by Educational Testing Service (ETS), which administers the GRE, and the Council of Graduate Schools (CGS).
The new report is a follow-up to a 2010 report the two organizations released called “The Path Forward: The Future of Graduate Education in the United States.”
While the last report delineated the need for graduate education, “this report is more actionable,” said Kurt M. Landgraf, President and CEO at ETS.
“This report basically says corporations, universities and policymakers need to do something,” Landgraf said of the three target audiences of the report. “Not talk about doing something, doing it, because in the next 15 years, there’s going to be a need for 2.6 million new jobs in the United States requiring either a master’s degree or Ph.D., and unless we face up to this extraordinary need, our global competitiveness is truly amiss.”