By L. K. Lautz, D. H. McCay, C. T. Driscoll, R. L. Glas, K. M. Gutchess, A. J. Johnson, and G. D. Millard for Eos
Current graduate programs in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) prepare students for a career that most of them will never find themselves in. These graduate programs have traditionally been apprenticeships that prepare students to become researchers at academic institutions [Hancock and Walsh, 2016]. However, more than 50% of all doctoral degree holders do not work in academia or even do research as their primary job.
Given these trends, a new report by the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine recommends adjusting our mind-set to recognize that many of our most talented graduates will enter career sectors such as industry and government [National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine, 2018]. Ideally, programs should encourage students to explore such diverse career options by allocating the time and resources needed to pursue course offerings designed for career exploration, as well as seminars, internships, and real-life professional experiences.
With this report as a backdrop, we offer recommendations that have worked in our experience to build a program that prepares students for diverse careers after graduating. Our recommendations are derived from experience developing the Education Model Program on Water-Energy Research (EMPOWER), one program in the first cohort of National Science Foundation Research Traineeship (NRT) programs at Syracuse University.