ETS Listening. Leading. Learning.
Council of Graduate Schools

Frequently Asked Questions


Q:

What is this new report?

A:

The new report, Pathways Through Graduate School and Into Careers, is the second in a series assembled by the Council of Graduate Schools (CGS) and Educational Testing Service (ETS). The report calls for strengthening pathways through graduate school and into professional careers as well as greater collaboration from key stakeholders in higher education and business. It recommends broadening graduate education to include the development of some professional skills essential to students' success.

Q:

What issues does the report identify?

A:

With the reality that by 2020, 2.6 million new or replacement jobs will require an advanced degree such as a master's or doctorate, many graduate students are unaware of the full range of available job opportunities or how to successfully navigate into these careers. The report points to the need for enhanced coordination between universities, employers, and policymakers in illuminating pathways through graduate school and into careers.

Q:

What level of degrees will be required between now and 2020 in order to expand the United States' global competitiveness?

A:

Between now and 2020, the number of jobs requiring a master's degree are expected to increase by about 22%, and the number requiring a doctorate or professional degree by about 20%. The success of the United States in the global economy depends on preparing highly skilled professionals, leaders, innovators, and thinkers.

Q:

Why is this of concern to the future competitiveness of the United States?

A:

U.S. graduate schools are environments in which students acquire the skills and knowledge needed to compete in the global economy as well as to solve problems of national and global scope. The 2010 report by CGS and ETS, The Path Forward, outlined a plan of action for ensuring that a diverse range of talented students are able to contribute to this work for their own benefit as well as for that of the U.S. economy and society. These recommendations have garnered significant national attention and led to many transformative changes on U.S. campuses. Yet the report also indicates that our work is not done: There is still a significant gap in our understanding of the next step in the journey, specifically the pathways through graduate school and into careers.

Q:

But isn't the U.S. graduate education system the envy of the world? Why hasn't this challenge been addressed before?

A:

According to CGS President Debra Stewart, "The United States has the most vigorous and dynamic system of graduate education in the world, but unfortunately, there has been little research to identify whether students understand the relationship between their studies and future career options. This is called 'career transparency,' and this report examines the lack of career transparency and points to the need for key stakeholders to clarify the graduate school-to-careers journey to ensure that we have the talent to help our economy and society thrive."

Q:

So who are the key players in this graduate school-to-careers journey?

A:

Broadly speaking, they are federal policymakers, university leaders, and business leaders.

Q:

What actions does the report suggest for these groups?

A:

The report recommends that federal policymakers provide support for studies that help us understand career pathways for graduate students and that they also consider establishing a Professional Plus Program for graduate students on assistantships that will help prepare them for a variety of career options open to them.

University officials need to track career outcomes and job placement for graduate students, provide career guidance, enhance efforts to connect them with alumni, broaden the focus of graduate education to include the development of professional skills, and build more opportunities for graduate school faculty to engage with industry, government, and other sectors.

Finally, employers should enhance and expand collaborative relationships with their higher education counterparts, make strategic investments in graduate programs, provide collaborative and research opportunities for graduate students and graduate faculty, and provide financial assistance for employees wishing to pursue graduate studies.

Q:

Are there any other recommendations for employers?

A:

Yes. Employers are in a position to offer internships and research opportunities for graduate students and faculty as well as provide graduate faculty with opportunities to engage with industry, government, and other sectors. They also are well-placed to signal the kinds of knowledge, skills, and abilities required for highly skilled jobs and to communicate this information to graduate institutions and programs.

Q:

How do employers perceive individuals with graduate degrees?

A:

As part of our interviews with employers, we found that they believe that graduate degree holders bring value to their organization. Employees with graduate degrees are viewed as having the advanced knowledge and, sometimes, real-work experience that allows them to contribute to projects. They believe these staff become engaged immediately in their work and have the skills to examine and solve problems from different views. As succinctly put by Ronald Townsend, Executive Vice President of Global Laboratory Operations for Battelle Memorial Institute®, graduate degree holders, especially those with doctorates, provide the "… scientific and technological leadership to drive scientific discovery, inspire innovation, and solve tough challenges."

Q:

How do employers view graduate students coming into the job market? Are they coming with the skills and knowledge employers want?

A:

During interviews, employers indicated that they believed that some skills important for job success are missing for some graduates. Employers also said that more graduate students need to be taught to innovate and think like entrepreneurs. In particular, employers would like to see skills further developed in the areas of communication (both oral and written), business acumen, teamwork, and problem-solving. They also would like graduate schools to take a more multidisciplinary focus — that is, to teach students how to apply their expertise to solve problems in a broad range of areas.

Q:

Do we need a special focus on encouraging minority students to pursue graduate education?

A:

Despite an average annual increase of about 3% in overall graduate enrollment and a 4% increase for all minority groups over the most recent decade, most students receiving a bachelor's degree do not continue with their education. In particular, the representation of minority students in graduate education is still low. Some initiatives, such as the Ronald E. McNair Postbaccalaureate Achievement Program, exist at the federal level to increase access to graduate education but other initiatives are needed.

Q:

What is the economic advantage of a graduate degree?

A:

According to ETS President and CEO Kurt M. Landgraf, "Earning premiums continue to be associated with advanced education levels. A recent study showed that across the 15 fields examined, individuals with a graduate degree earned an average of 38.3% more than those with a bachelor's degree in the same field. In addition, the overall unemployment rate for individuals who hold graduate degrees traditionally has been lower than for those who hold an undergraduate degree. So, with such tangible economic benefits, why aren't more students pursuing graduate school? Cost and family obligations are obvious reasons, but this report shows another major factor may be a lack of understanding of career options."


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