Wednesday, March 20, 2013

This whole "alternative careers" thing isn't worth the fuzz

I don't get it when people say that "alternative careers" in academia are not supported enough. How so? Virtually all academic training is about the alternative career!

That is the main career path, the one followed by ~90% of grad students and postdocs, the one that involves leaving academia at some point, that is not paid enough attention to. Even though most people who are working in academia this very moment will eventually leave academia, they don't receive enough training to prepare them for this step. This is bad.

Conversely, the "alternative path", taken by only 5-10% of people, which eventually leads to a tenure track position in a research university, is surprisingly well covered. All these postdocs, publications, conferences... All for one small alternative path. Isn't it strange?

So stop complaining about "alternative careers", and better concentrate on the "mainstream career": the one that leads out. At least pay some attention to it. Think of it. It's much more realistic.

1 comment:

  1. An astute observation. It wasn't always this way though. Once upon a time academia trained academics. But as you pointed out now most PhDs go elsewhere. (Some because they want to other b/c there is no job for them to stay.) The question I have been wrestling with is: Should we cap PhDs basically only allowing academia to train academics with job prospects, or should we rework the curriculum to force academia to train non-academics for life in the real world? Either way the status quo is not acceptable.

    Thanks for sharing,