Stanford Encourages Doctoral Grads to Pursue Careers Outside Academia

May 24, 2013

In an effort to help PhD graduates find jobs outside of academia, Stanford University is reevaluating its doctoral degree, particularly for humanities students.

According to Inside Higher Ed, starting next year Stanford will encourage doctoral students in humanities to pursue careers as high school teachers by fully funding each student who is admitted to and completes its Stanford Teacher Education Program. The program will also offer a new course that will introduce students to a career as a high school teacher.

“The course will involve curriculum issues,” said Debra Satz, senior associate dean for the humanities and arts, in a Stanford news release. “It also will have them visit certain high schools and learn about high school teaching… so they get experience working with young people to see if they’re really good doing this.”

As Inside Higher Ed noted, becoming a high school teacher is not the typical career path for PhD graduates. Indeed, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, to be a high school teacher in the U.S. only requires a bachelor’s degree. Satz, however, pointed out that elsewhere, such as in Europe, it is common for high school teachers to hold advanced degrees.

The need to explore nontraditional career opportunities for humanities graduates was a response to the demands of students themselves. According to the news release, some 40 graduate students attended a meeting that was organized by Satz to discuss teaching high school.

“What I hear again and again from graduate students is that they’re interested in careers other than faculty careers—they just don’t want their advisers to find out about it,” explained Russell Berman, professor of comparative literature and German studies and a leading voice in the national dialogue on doctoral education reform, in Inside Higher Ed. “They sense advisers will cease to support them if they signal career plans [outside the academy] or maybe don’t want to be researchers.” Berman added that in today’s academic job market it is imperative that doctoral departments support alternative career paths as well as better prepare students for nontraditional routes.

Interestingly, other doctoral fields such as biology and engineering suffer from some of the same problems as the humanities field. For example, Stanford’s biology department faced problems with students taking too long to complete the program, while engineering graduates sometimes displace other students by sticking around in postdoctoral positions rather than moving on to industry careers.

According to Inside Higher Ed, Stanford will continue the dialogue on reforming doctoral education across disciplines.

“We’re in a very flexible moment for higher education,” said Berman to Inside Higher Ed.

Compiled by Heidi M. Agustin


“Doctoring the Doctorate,”, May 24, 2013, Colleen Flaherty

“Faculty Senate explores the future of the doctoral degree,”, May 17, 2013

“High School Teachers,”, April 5, 2012

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