Wednesday, November 9, 2011


A huge standing ovation to Ohio State for hosting Paula Chambers of Versatile Ph.D. and for opening up the floor to a public discussion of nonacademic careers for people with advanced degrees.

This is the kind of dialogue we need to keep having, publicly, so that grad students can quit feeling like they're doing something wrong by exploring nonacademic careers ... and so academics who are miserable with the academic life can see that they have other options and start working toward a postacademic life.

I attended a postacademic careers section at my discpline's last annual conference, and the room was so packed that people were sitting on the floor between chairs. There is clearly a demand for this kind of information, as much as some academics would like to pretend otherwise.

It's understandable that faculty and administration might not know exactly how to advise students for nonacademic careers. But it's well past time for them to acknowledge that there are massive structural problems in higher education hiring (as well as the fact that every newbie grad student who is in love with academia may not feel the same way ten years later), and to provide their students with some resources for finding other types of careers. Bringing in outside speakers in the form of people who work outside of academia with Ph.D.'s would be a good first start. Let's not only give grad students examples of people working outside academia ... but let's bring everyone who's considering a different career out into the light so they won't think they're alone and will have other people to talk to.

Bravo to Ohio State, to the wonderful Paula Chambers, and to all of the grad students who are actively thinking about their options right now, while they have plenty of time to plan and prepare!

(P.S. While you're reading this article, be sure to click around the links on the left and right for "related content." The Chronicle has done some decent work writing about nonacademic careers and alternatives to academia over the years.)

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