Graduate Education Flawed, Study Finds

By Bradley, Gwendolyn | Academe, July/August 2001 | Go to article overview

Graduate Education Flawed, Study Finds


Bradley, Gwendolyn, Academe


Graduate school does not adequately prepare students for the jobs they take, concluded researchers who conducted a survey sponsored by the Pew Charitable Trusts. The survey was administered in 1999 to Ph.D. candidates at twenty-seven universities in eleven disciplines (art history, chemistry, ecology, English, geology, history, mathematics, molecular biology, philosophy, nonclinical psychology, and sociology). A report based on the survey says that Ph.D. programs persist in preparing graduate students mainly for academic careers at research universities, despite an ongoing shortage of such jobs.

Only 27 percent of full-time faculty hold appointments at research universities, and no more than half of Ph.D. recipients in the disciplines studied end up in tenure-track faculty positions. Yet few students reported that career-planning workshops on nonacademic careers were available at their institutions, or that their departments encouraged them to consider nonacademic career options (the authors of the report note that since they relied on students' perceptions, there may be a lack of publicity about such workshops rather than an actual lack of them). And although 31 percent of faculty work at two-year colleges, only 3.9 percent of students indicated that they would prefer such a position.

In addition, students are not particularly well prepared by their graduate programs to be teachers, the report says. Only about half of the Ph.D. candidates surveyed indicated that they had had an opportunity to learn specifically about teaching in their discipline; about half were required to serve as a teaching assistant, and about half said a term-long teacher-training course was available to them. …

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