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Pathways to Careers in Science Workshop Highlights Changing Academic Workforce

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Author: Charlotte Anthony | Category: Career Development | March 19, 2015

“Before 1994, there were no faculty over 70 and less than 13 percent were over 60,” said Dr. Andrea Giuffrida, vice president of research ad interim at UT Health Science Center. “In 2006, the law changed and now over 5 percent are over 70 and 18 percent are greater than 60. This means that there are less new spaces for younger faculty.”

Dr. Giuffrida spoke about the changing academic workforce at the Pathways to Careers in Science workshop alongside panelists Dr. Robert Balster, Dr. Amy Hauck Newman, Dr. Timothy Raabe, and Maj. Stuart Tyner.

“We know we produce about 55,000 new doctoral graduates per year and we know it has increased by 75 percent since 1992,” Dr. Giuffrida explained.

Rheaclare Fraser, a postdoctoral research fellow at UT Health Science Center, said that conversations about the reduced number of academic positions are happening more and more.

“Academic institutions are starting to be honest about the availability of these types of jobs, which is important not only for trainees but the trainers (PI’s, advisers, administration) to understand and accept also, in order to get a better handle and tailor preparation for other job markets in need of biomedical Ph.D. scientists,” Fraser said.

This information was important for graduate students and postdoctoral fellows especially those considering teaching positions in academia.

“Competition is steep across many sectors, so it’s really important to prepare and set yourself apart in the best ways possible,” Fraser said.

Dr. Giuffrida explained that people need to be a little more careful with the type of Ph.D. they select especially if they want a career in academia.

“The job market is not fun and it’s becoming more and more competitive and what is clear is that having a Ph.D. is not sufficient enough to land a position in academia anymore,” Dr. Giuffrida said. “Only 1-2 percent of Ph.D. graduates and 14 percent of postdocs eventually get a professorship.”

Fraser agreed that care needs to be taken with the type of Ph.D. that is chosen for each person.

“I think we’re going to have to see the structure of Ph.D. training change in order to meet this need,” Fraser said. “Schools will have to incorporate more systematic changes at the institutional levels in order to tailor the Ph.D. to each trainees’ talents and career interests.”

Despite the competitive job market for teaching positions, Dr. Giuffrida still believes that the market demand for a Ph.D. is still high.

“Ph.D.’s have a lot of skills that are useful in the workplace such as critical thinking skills and the ability to communicate with clarity and rigor,” Dr. Giuffrida said. “Overall, Ph.D.’s enjoy a low unemployment rate of less than 2 percent.”

Dr. Giuffrida believes that graduate students and postdoctoral fellows should be able to articulate their skills for different jobs.

“You should be able to explain what you can do to help the company,” he said. “Being able to communicate what you do in a successful way is critical to getting a job.” 

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