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Graduate Students Don’t Use Career Services? Oh, Please!

Graduate Students Don’t Use Career Services? Oh, Please!

EACE Blog contribution by Alfreda James, Assistant Director, Graduate Student and Post Doc Career Services at Stony Brook University 

Graduate students don’t use career services! Really? Or at least that’s what the Council on Graduate Schools (CGS) concluded in its Pathways Through Graduate School and Into Careers. In nearly 100 pages CGS documents the role of faculty/academic advisors, and other graduate students as sources of information about careers. Employers and career counselors ranked at the bottom.

But if this report is true, then why do students from graduate programs in business, applied math, and chemistry seek appointments with me and other staff in Stony Brook University’s Career Center? Were the Ph.D. and master’s degree candidates in my career education workshops a figment of my imagination? And what about the nearly 4000 graduate students registered in a virtual career fair sponsored by CareerEco and the Graduate Career Consortium (GCC)?

CGS is the only national organization dedicated solely to the advancement of graduate education and research. Graduate deans place high value on CGS reports and information. And unless the graduate dean at your university or college has campus-specific data about the types of students using career services, he/she will rely on the CGS report.

This is a problem, a very big problem because if you are not generating visual graphics and other data about student demographics, then your campus deans will likely be influenced by charts like the one below:

Source: Wendler, C., Cline F., Bochenek J., Wendler, S., & Allum, J. (2014) Pathways Through Graduate School and Into Careers: Responses to the Student Survey by Degree Level and Field of Study, Part A. Princeton, NJ: Educational Testing Service

Source: Wendler, C., Cline F., Bochenek J., Wendler, S., & Allum, J. (2014) Pathways Through Graduate School and Into Careers: Responses to the Student Survey by Degree Level and Field of Study, Part A. Princeton, NJ: Educational Testing Service

 

Yup, there we are at the bottom of the list! When GCS sorted out this data between master’s and doctoral students, career counselors still ranked at the bottom. From counseling appointments to employer information sessions, career professionals are either developing programs for graduate students or integrating the specific needs of graduate students into current activities. There is a gap between data collected by CGS and the daily reality of working in career services. Let’s get in the habit of producing our own reports, visuals, and webinars on the graduate students we counsel and assist.

CGS partnered with the Educational Testing Service to produce the Pathways report. So there is no doubt about the validity of the survey’s design or the interpretation of results.  Senior-level administration rely on data from CGS and ETS to become aware of national trends and determine allocation of resources. But here’s the rub, fellow counselors: everyone—students, the university, and career services—loses when two influential organizations blind themselves to the efforts of career professionals. Visibility counts. And I don’t mean joining more campus committees. In our data-driven world, we must collect, chart, and share results about the population walking through our doors.


Alfreda S. James, PhD

Alfreda S. James, PhD

Alfreda S. James, PhD specializes in counseling graduate students about career options. She advises graduate students as well as undergraduates pursuing careers in public policy, government, and science. Dr. James is currently a member of the IDP Task Force and the WISE Admissions Committee. Women in Science and Engineering (WISE) provides four year scholarships to undergraduates pursing degrees in STEM disciplines. She served two terms as an evaluator for the Turner Graduate Fellowship Program. The Turner Fellowship provides financial support to underrepresented graduate students. Dr. James is also a member of the university’s HealthierU strategic planning committee, responsible for promoting wellness and health activities to over 14,000 employees.

 

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