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The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill is one of 29 universities nationwide awarded a competitive grant to survey its doctoral students and alumni on the career pathways they have chosen.

The National Science Foundation and the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation are funding the Council of Graduate Schools-led initiative. During the multi-year project, the participating universities will survey current doctoral students and alumni from humanities and STEM fields; doctoral students in the second and fifth years of their programs will receive one survey, and doctoral alumni who are three, eight and 15 years post-graduation will receive another.

“Doctoral alumni pursue many different types of careers. On a national level, however, we don’t have a full assessment of the breadth and depth of these career choices,” said Steve Matson, dean of The Graduate School. “To my knowledge, an extensive group of universities has never collected a data set such as proposed in this project: to measure career directions, as informed by what students and alumni tell us.”

The Graduate School is administering the UNC-Chapel Hill data collection; officials are now in the process of identifying the subset of students and alumni to survey and plan to implement the first survey in the fall 2017 semester. The Council of Graduate Schools (CGS) anticipates sharing results of the surveys beginning in fall 2018.

According to CGS, data collected nationwide will allow universities to study doctoral career choices and outcomes at the program level, and help faculty and university administrators enhance professional development. The data will also be useful in university efforts to enhance career services, mentoring and professional development for doctoral students.

“Today, universities recognize that PhD students aspire to a wide variety of careers, including academic research and teaching,” said CGS president Suzanne Ortega. “Knowing what your alumni do – and how well they are prepared – is becoming the new paradigm, and our university partners are leading the way for the entire community of doctoral institutions.”

Graduate students make up 29 percent of UNC-Chapel Hill’s total student enrollment. During academic year 2016-17, 633 students received doctoral degrees.

Matson said the project had the potential to provide major benefits to UNC-Chapel Hill’s students.

“Graduate students are a significant component of our total student population,” said Matson. “They make remarkable contributions to Carolina – and the world. We are pleased to participate in creating and strengthening valuable resources for our doctoral students as they consider their full career options.”

View more information on the PhD Career Pathways project.

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