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Graduate Students Skills Translate to Non-Academic Careers

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Most graduate students, especially doctoral students, aspire to a career in academics. But an academic career isn't right for everyone. More importantly, academic jobs are hard to come by. But what else is there? Most students don't realize that a graduate degree offers preparation for careers well beyond academia. Why?

It's the skills. Graduate study imparts students with a host of skills that are transferrable to a variety of positions and fields. What can you offer employers? Below are just some of the skills that most graduate students develop (some vary by field)

Critical Thinking
All that reading, analyzing text, critiquing articles, and evaluating multiple positions has helped you hone fine critical thinking skills. All fields and all careers require good thinking.

Problem Defining and Solving
Not all problems are well-defined. Graduate students learn to analyze a situation and determine, first, if a problem exists. Then they are able to define the scope of the problem. Employers are especially interested in problem solving skills. Guess what? You've got them! Designing studies to test hypothesis and gathering data to inform a given question , things that all graduate students do, is problem solving.

Tolerance for Ambiguity
If graduate study teaches you one thing, it's how to tolerate ambiguity. There are few facts in this world, and graduate students understand that. There often multiple perspective and possible explanations for any given phenomena. That's ambiguity. Often there isn't one right answer or one perfect answer and one must work with whatever limited information one has. This capacity is useful in the real world.

Quantitative Skills
Numbers - the ability to understand and use them - is helpful everywhere.

Information Gathering and Synthesis Skills
The ability to locate information about a given question or issue, make sense out of multiple documents, and synthesize material from various sources into a coherent whole is a skill employers seek.

Presentation Skills
You know something -- how do you relay it to a group of people? Graduate students do a lot of presentations. The ability to create an organized concise presentation, with accompanying visuals, will earn you points with an employer.

Writing Skills
Graduate students write. A lot. The ability to string sentences together in a comprehensible and efficient pattern is valuable.

Teamwork
Many graduate students work as parts of laboratory teams. What you learn as a team member translates into the real world. Employers want employees who know how to get along with others.

Your graduate degree is useful in academia, but it is also useful outside of academia. Stop and consider what you have learned and what you bring an employer and you'll find that you have many more career options than you imagined.

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