UT System focuses on career counseling for Ph.D.s

AUSTIN – Across the nation, newly-minted Ph.D.s are finding fewer and fewer career options. Traditional academic jobs, once a primary career path, employ a mere 14 percent of those new scientists, according to a 2009 National Science Foundation survey. That figure has been steadily declining for many years. The University of Texas System has been working diligently to change this trend.

Chancellor Francisco Cigarroa’s “Framework for Advancing Excellence” specifically calls for the implementation of innovative plans to improve student advising, both to ensure students are finishing their degrees in a timely manner and to help them find job opportunities after graduation.

At this week’s UT System Board of Regents meeting, presidents from all six UT health institutions shared what they’re doing to assist, counsel and encourage their students and graduates.

“The health institutions have created a number of impressive programs to counsel Ph.D. candidates on the broad array of career opportunities available to them,” said Dr. Kenneth Shine, executive vice chancellor for health affairs. “These programs are particularly important when reductions in federal research funding may limit traditional academic positions.”

Some UT health institutions, like UT Health Science Center at Houston and UT MD Anderson Cancer Center, are working in collaboration to address the problem, offering internships, joint programs and seminars.

Some UT health campuses have opened special offices to address the issue. At the UT Medical Branch at Galveston, an Office of Academic Support Services and Career Counseling provides students exposure to career options, mentors and numerous other resources to advance medical students' career goals. UT Health Science Center at San Antonio President William Henrich expressed his concern at how many students on his campus were “slipping through the cracks” and not finishing their degrees in a reasonable period of time. Now, thanks to the counseling services they offer, most students graduate in four to four and a half years.

In the current era of declining research budgets and shrinking career options, the UT System health institutions are diligently working together to not only educate the next generation of doctors and scientists, but also help them find the right path once they graduate.

About The University of Texas System

Educating students, providing care for patients, conducting groundbreaking research and serving the needs of Texans and the nation for more than 130 years, The University of Texas System is one of the largest public university systems in the United States, with nine academic universities, six health institutions and a fall 2012 enrollment of roughly 216,000. The UT System confers more than one-third of the state’s undergraduate degrees, educates two-thirds of the state’s health care professionals annually and accounts for almost 70 percent of all research funds awarded to public universities in Texas. The UT System has an annual operating budget of $13.9 billion (FY 2013) including $3.1 billion in sponsored programs funded by federal, state, local and private sources. With more than 87,000 employees, the UT System is one of the largest employers in the state.

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