Dear Royal Society,
I recently read the THE article covering your report that discusses how we PhD students believe we’re walking into “a job for life” by gaining a PhD. I can only personally speak for my discipline, biological sciences, however judging by comments on Twitter and on the article itself I think I’m being quite representative when I tell you I don’t know a single PhD student who feels like they’re walking into a job full stop, let alone a job for life.
Would you like to know some of the things I do to “take responsibility” for managing my potential future career:
- I demonstrate for undergraduate students to gain relevant teaching experience
- I take part in outreach work helping to make science more accessible for students (and the public)
- I’m a tutor with the fantastic Brilliant Club working with secondary school students to increase the opportunities available to them as they progress to higher education
- I am a registered Scientist with the Society of Biology, completing a minimum of 50 CPD credits/year
- I blog for the University of Leicester (you’re reading it right now) to gain non-academic writing experience
- I gave a talk to this years PhD intake to give them a taste of what to expect from PhD life
- I actively participate in University life – giving my time and opinions to discussions about improving processes for example
- I take part in the training offered by my college and University
- I take part in external events such as the Voice of Young Science Media workshop
This is just some of what I do in addition to my PhD, I do it all willingly as not only does it give me the skills I need for the future but I enjoy a lot of it, in particular the teaching. If you think I should be doing more, don’t worry I’m always considering it. So please don’t tell me that I have unrealistic expectations, I know just how unlikely an academic career is for myself and my PhD colleagues, in fact the lack of job security has driven most of us to begin planning alternative non-academic careers long before beginning our thesis. The University of Leicester is very good at helping it’s post-grad’s consider alternatives, for this I’m grateful, however even without this support I think I would be exceptionally naive to believe there would be a “job for life” waiting for me after my viva and I’m not alone in knowing this.
(A realistic PhD student)