Graduate students to hold ‘Beyond Academia’ career conference

Yasmin Anwar/UC Berkeley Media Relations/Courtesy
Pictured above are four conference organizers and doctoral students in psychology. From left to right, Bryan Alvarez, Els van der Helm, Will Griscom, Alison Miller Singley

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A group of doctoral and postdoctoral students is holding a career conference Friday aiming to introduce graduate students to private-sector jobs in light of diminishing availability of academic careers.

The conference, named Beyond Academia, allows doctoral and postdoctoral students to receive tips from company recruiters and hear from speakers who earned doctorates and have since transitioned into the private sector.

“We created the Beyond Academia conference based on our own interest in jobs outside of the traditional tenure-track professorship,” said Bryan Alvarez, one of the organizers of Beyond Academia and a seventh-year doctoral student in psychology. “The goal is just to let people look around in places they don’t normally have access to as easily and learn more about themselves in the process.”

The conference is taking place at a time when graduate students, who have traditionally gone into academic careers, find it more difficult to become faculty members and thus need to explore more career options.

A survey conducted by the National Science Foundation found that the percentage of graduate students in all fields who find academic jobs upon graduation fell from 23.2 percent in 1991 to 19.4 percent in 2011.

“In part, there are not enough available jobs for every graduate student to have a professorial job,” Alvarez said. “It seems unlikely that the hundreds of thousands of graduate students in the U.S. alone, qualified with the wealth and breadth of training they have received, would all want the exact same job. It’s OK for graduate students to reach beyond the career path they are assumed to want.”

According to a survey conducted by UC Berkeley’s Career Center, between 2007 and 2009, 57 percent of students who graduated with doctorates received jobs in academia, with 35 percent of those in tenure-track positions. Additionally, the percentage of UC Berkeley doctoral students who obtain faculty positions is higher than the national average of 41 percent.

Marty Nemko, a UC Berkeley doctorate recipient and keynote speaker for Beyond Academia, said that even for UC Berkeley doctoral students, the job market is far from easy due to cost-cutting measures that limit academic employment in some universities.

“Universities are under great pressure to convince prospective students that four to eight years and $100,000-plus is time and money well spent,” Nemko said. “To control costs, universities hire more part-time faculty and hire fewer professors by having current professors teach in large lectures or online.”

Alvarez said that this conference was requested by his colleagues, and he hopes that through this event, participants will understand that they are capable and qualified to obtain jobs that are not academic-related.
Beyond Academia will take place on March 22 from 9 a.m. to 6:30 p.m. in International House.

Contact Seif Abdelghaffar at [email protected].