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Preparation for nonacademic careers can improve, report says

by Andrea Widener
March 6, 2017 | A version of this story appeared in Volume 95, Issue 10

Universities have a long way to go in preparing students for nonacademic jobs, according to a two-year study of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics graduate education from the Council of Graduate Schools. The NSF-funded study included surveys of 226 institutions, interviews with hiring managers, and a workshop to explore solutions. The study found that although many schools have formal programs to prepare students for academic or teaching positions, fewer than half have programs to prepare students for nonacademic careers. Even those with these programs often don’t give students the right skills, the report says. Many focus on universal skills, such as communication, mentorship, and leadership. However, only one out of 10 programs addressed skills that nonacademic employers say students need, such as data science, project management, or experience with risk and compliance. The study recommends that graduate schools, departments, employers, and other interested parties work together to make sure their goals are aligned. It also suggests universities gather more information about effective programs—it created an online database of programs to help—and evaluate the effectiveness of their programs to make sure they work.


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