From PhD to the Public: Alternative Career Prospects and Life Outside Academia (Roundtable)


Pedagogy & Professional / Interdisciplinary Humanities

James Rizzi (Tufts University)

Christian Ylagan (Western University)

Over the years, the number of PhD graduates and the number of available permanent academic jobs have gotten increasingly disproportionate. Wendler et al.’s 2010 study revealed that less than 50% of US PhD graduates found academic jobs, most of which are unlikely to be full-time positions, and majority of which go to graduates from universities perceived to be more “prestigious”. Yet these numbers rise dramatically once one looks outside the hallowed walls of North American universities. For example, while it’s estimated that less than 25% of Canadian PhD students will end up in tenure-track positions (Charbonneau 2011; Tamburri 2010), general industry employment rates for these graduates are between 90-100%, with an above average median pay (2013 National Graduates Survey). Being able to translate high-level academic skills into transformative and profitable careers may therefore yield significant advantage for graduate students looking to find meaningful life prospects outside the university.

This roundtable seeks to bridge traditional notions of post-PhD careers with the material realities of the current job market to open the possibility that academia and the fields outside it are not mutually exclusive but can be mutually beneficial. To this end, we invite participants in non-academic university careers, as well as also those with advanced academic degrees but who have since transitioned to fields such as policy, advocacy, commercial publishing, analytic journalism, cultural production, entertainment media, for-profit research, and non-profit organizations, among others. Possible discussion points include:

1) overcoming challenges of transitioning to professional fields;

2) translating content knowledge and academic skills into industry success;

3) leveraging advanced degrees toward leadership, administration, and management;

4) engaging in “applied” arts, humanities, and social science;

5) retooling academic networks for non-academic purposes;

6) participating in social entrepreneurship, corporate responsibility, and public intellectualism;

7) fostering liaisons between the university and non-academic organizations.

This roundtable bridges traditional notions of post-PhD careers with the material realities of the current job market to open the possibility that academia and the fields outside it are not mutually exclusive but can be mutually beneficial. We invite participants in non-academic university careers, as well as also those with advanced academic degrees but who have since transitioned to fields such as policy, advocacy, commercial publishing, analytic journalism, cultural production, entertainment media, for-profit research, and non-profit organizations, among others.