PhD jobs: Support beyond academia

Most PhD students are all too aware of their limited career prospects in academia and its dearth of permanent jobs. To imply that they are not (Nature 550, 429; 2017) goes against the results of Nature’s Careers survey, which reports that 55% of respondents are worried about their career path and 49% are concerned about the number of research jobs available (Nature 550, 549–552; 2017).

Simply directing PhD trainees to career services is not enough. In our view, supervisors should discuss career goals with their students throughout their degrees, while helping them to develop career-oriented skills (such as management, teamwork and communication) that are mutually beneficial. Mentors can also encourage students by familiarizing themselves with campus professional-development services and by celebrating the career successes of alumni outside academia.

The 14% of survey respondents who have unsupportive advisers might face discrimination after voicing their wish to pursue different careers. Students should consider approaching other mentors — in industry, for example.

Many US student groups are spearheading a movement to broaden careers training beyond academia. Supervisors and administrators must step up too.