Understanding career trajectories of doctoral students

Recent debates concerning doctoral education focus largely on the question of whether universities are training too many Ph.D. students in the right disciplines and with the right skill set. Granular data about doctoral training and doctoral career outcomes are essential to inform the conversation on the future of the Ph.D.

Five Wayne State University faculty and staff involved with ReBUILDetroit recently published an article, “Using Longitudinal Data on Career Outcomes to Promote Improvements and Diversity in Graduate Education” in Change: The Magazine Of Higher Learning last month.

The authors include Dr. Andrew Feig, Leah Robinson, Song Yan, Mark Byrd, with the senior leadership of Dr. Ambika Mathur.

The Wayne State University Graduate School set out to understand the longitudinal career trajectories of their doctoral alumni. Using a single data structure, the Graduate School is aggregating, analyzing and sharing these data nationally and with stakeholders to better understand the value of the Ph.D. across all disciplines. Additionally, these data are used to inform our strategic decisions concerning doctoral education.

The project was designed to teach about the career paths of former students, but it served several additional goals in that it helped to inform about the technical resources necessary in terms of both personnel and data structures to track alumni.

The project also allowed uses the data to initiate conversations with our current students about career paths of Ph.D. holders and to use alumni within specific workforce domains to mentor current students with specific career trajectories in mind.

The article is available online at: http://www.tandfonline.com/doi/full/10.1080/00091383.2016.1247582