New U.S. Panel Examines Career Paths After Grad School

Two U.S. higher education organizations have begun collecting data on what graduate students know about their career options and what type of workers high-tech companies are looking for. It's part of an ongoing effort to persuade federal policymakers that making a bigger investment in graduate education will create more jobs and strengthen the economy.

The Council of Graduate Schools (CGS) and the Educational Testing Service (ETS) today announced a 14-member Commission to Study Pathways through Graduate School and into Careers. The name derives from an April 2010 report issued by the two group, called The Path Forward, that spelled out needed changes to U.S. graduate education, including a shorter time to degree, fewer dropouts, and attracting more minorities into science. It also criticized graduate schools for providing poor-quality career counseling.

The new commission will focus on that last issue, says its chair, Patrick Osmer, graduate school dean at Ohio State University in Columbus. "We want to understand what current graduate students know about their career opportunities, and what graduate programs are doing to prepare them. We also want to find out more about the needs of the workplace. There are no good data on what students and faculty think about these issues, and it's also vital that graduate programs understand the needs of industry." The information will come from reanalyzing existing data and new surveys to be conducted by CGS and ETS.

The 2010 report called for a 5-year, $10-billion boost in graduate education to train an additional 25,000 students annually in a variety of interdisciplinary programs leading to masters' as well as doctoral degrees. Osmer says he hopes the commission's findings, to be presented next spring at the council's annual meeting, will be part of a "continuing national conversation" on ways to improve graduate education.