I. Goals:

To inform current and prospective Ph.D.s of their holistic value and prospects in today’s job market while simultaneously providing a space of dialogue and support.

For too long it has been assumed that those who seek a terminal research degree will choose to take positions in higher education upon graduation. This fallacy is especially prevalent in the humanities where tenure-track positions have been contracting while the number of degree recipients has expanded. Program directors, research mentors, and the students themselves are rarely introduced to career options beyond university-level teaching or research. But this is beginning to change. We aim to broaden the discussion on viable career paths for Ph.D.s through a pragmatic assessment of their transferable skill sets as well as the intellectual, emotional, and social values that can lead them both toward and away from academic careers.

II: Methods:

Based on the feminist principle that the personal is political, we explore the current state of Ph.D. training and job prospects by analytically sharing the experiences of current and former graduate students who have:

• elected to leave the academy and adopt another career path,
• elected to remain within the academy working on the tenure track or as adjuncts,
• left the academy before completing a terminal degree.

Our inquiry takes the form of the personal essay and assumes that all experiences, observations, and opinions on the topic are not only valid but crucial for understanding the changing fields of employment for Ph.D.s. To shatter the myth that an academic career is the only imaginable or respectable career for terminal degree-holders, we present as many voices as possible and curate their conflicts, contradictions, and paths to success.

III. Audience:

1) Students considering graduate school:

• What do current and former Ph.D. students wish they had known about graduate programs and the job market before going to graduate school?
• To go: why or why not?

2) Current graduate students considering careers outside of academia:

• What are the options?
• How have others made the decision to stay or leave the academy?
• How have others found and landed non-academic jobs?
• What values and desires satisfied by the academy will the new career need to fulfill? Which of these could become enriching hobbies or volunteer work?
• What happens to dissertation research after choosing an alt-ac career?

3) Current professors and administrators who want to make their programs more alt-ac friendly:

• How can faculty members become effective mentors to graduate students who face a diminishing academic job market?
• Which skills from the Ph.D. transfer to other careers and which are purely academic?
• How can faculty negotiate culture change in a department or university that is resistant to alt-ac career paths for its graduates?