shared by: Bethany Huot
I came across this post and thought it had some useful information relevant to our recent discussions. I am sharing only a couple of excerpts here, but you can click here to read the entire post.
Post written by: Bhaskar Krishnamachari
“When I joined USC ten years ago, having followed my own Ph.D. directly with a job in academia, I naively thought a good number of my students would do the same.
But the reality of the matter is that there are few openings in academia for the large number of Ph.D.’s graduating each year from our universities. And these have become more competitive by the year.
To give you a more concrete idea, top departments may receive 200 or more applications for a single tenure track position. Consequently, young applicants for new faculty positions today are locked in an arms race that is spiraling out of control — my colleagues and I sometimes joke when looking at applications for assistant professor positions that the presented credentials presented by many candidates would have been sufficient to get them tenure just a few years ago.
One could argue that academia has always been selective and competitive. But then, it used to be the case that there were many research labs in industry where the majority of Ph.D.’s could go if they weren’t interested in academia or weren’t able to find an academic job. For a number of socio-economic reasons, beginning with the late 90’s and through the 2000’s, this ecosystem of industrial research has essentially collapsed. With a handful of exceptions like Microsoft Research, there are not a lot of jobs in industry today where a Ph.D.-graduate will be hired to write papers.”
“Second, they must be able to communicate well in diverse settings. They must learn to communicate their ideas effectively, not only in a deep and rigorous manner as they must when writing for and giving talks to a technical audience of researchers and faculty in their own field, but also in an accessible and engaging manner to a broader audience. In industry, they will need to be articulate in contributing ideas in informal brainstorming sessions and meetings with their colleagues, as well as in formal presentations and reports, when they need to convince managers and clients of the merits of their proposals and solutions. In an industry setting, unlike in academia, they will need to be able to communicate with people from diverse backgrounds. Towards this end, while doing a Ph.D., they should practice giving talks to people outside their immediate field, and writing for a broader audience.
This second piece of advice also works well for Ph.D. students who don’t go on to industry positions. Even at academic interviews one is often talking to smart people who are not in one’s own area of expertise. And whether it is writing grant proposals or talking to students, being able to communicate coherently and persuasively with diverse audiences is an essential career skill for academics as well.
In his post, Haldar points out that besides opportunities to hone their communication skills, a significant way in which a Ph.D. benefits someone in preparing them for a career is by giving them an ability to work on ‘ambiguous and ill-specified problems.’ I agree wholeheartedly.”