In spring 2010, 4,493 UT Austin graduate students responded to an online survey commissioned by the Graduate School to help campus leaders better understand the attitudes, opinions and experiences of students enrolled in both academic and professional fields. The survey addressed the overall satisfaction and confidence of graduate students, and revealed data on such factors contributing to success in graduate school as mentoring and faculty-student relationships, funding, diversity, and student services. View the Executive Summary and the full report here.
The Survey of Earned Doctorates is distributed yearly to new research doctorates in the United States. Questions are asked about educational histories, funding sources, and post-doctoral plans. Results are published each year with a two-year lag; 2008 results have just been published.
The results of the survey shed light on realities for new PhDs. Responses to certain questions provide information that is critical for doctoral students as they progress through their programs and prepare for their futures, inside or outside of academe. The following data are of particular interest:
How many new PhDs pursue careers in academe?
All fields: 51.1%
Social Sciences: 61.9%
Upon graduation, what is the most common primary work activity for Liberal Arts PhDs?
Most new doctorate graduates with definite plans for post-graduation employment report that teaching will be their primary work activity.
Teaching, Research, and Other Activities: How do they figure in post-graduation employment plans?
Among anthropologists, political scientists, and sociologists, 55% list teaching as their primary work activity. 63.6% of economists plan for research and development to be their primary work activity, and 40.9% of psychology graduates plan to go into professional services as their primary work activity.
Of humanities graduates, 75.4% plan to teach as their primary work activity, while 13.6% report research and development as their primary work. The remaining 11% plan to work in management or administration, professional services, or primary/secondary education.
Data do not allow us to ascertain the extent to which these results reflect job availability versus preference. At any rate, if the national data point to teaching as the primary activity of graduating doctoral students in both the humanities and the social sciences, is teaching part of your plan? How prepared are you for teaching?
Citations available upon request.
The PhD Completion Project is a seven-year study conducted by the Council of Graduate Schools in partnership with more than twenty universities. The project examines retention and attrition and seeks to evaluate and promote practices that improve completion rates for underrepresented minorities and women.
The Council of Graduate Schools has released four volumes on their preliminary findings. Their most recent publication, Ph.D. Completion Project: Policies and Practices to Promote Student Success, reports on activities that are improving completion rates in doctoral programs at participating institutions. Here are some of the “promising practices” they have identified by category:
• Mentoring and Advising: Findings emphasize the importance of communication about expectations, milestones, and tracking student progress through annual reviews. Colleges and universities demonstrate their commitment to mentoring by pairing students with well-trained faculty and peer mentors, as well as by encouraging women and minority students to participate in programs outside of their departments.
• Financial Support: Findings suggest that universities and colleges should prioritize financial support by offering more of the available funding to doctoral students over masters students, offering summer support and health insurance, and allocating more financial support to programs with high completion rates.
• Professional Development: In addition to recommending programs that allow dissertation writers to connect and collaborate, the study recommends that colleges and universities guarantee that students will have opportunities to develop teaching skills.