Two Years After: Alt-Ac Careers

Spring is in the air, pollen is flying and graduation is in bloom. This week many universities are in graduation or commencement mode. It feels great to finish your program, get out of school and start a new life. But now what??? Dr. Patti Mason and I are two years out of finishing our doctorate. Here’s a look at some realities for new graduates and where Dr. Patti and I are in 2017…

Class of 2017

2017 graduates are facing new challenges in the workplace. A look at jobs for 2017 undergraduates from the University of Arkansas  rate the job market as “good” with more companies hiring and a greater demand for services and products.

This source also noted that employers are also looking for skills in team work (78%), ability to problem solve (77%),  written communication skills (78%), related work experience (65%) and leadership skills (69%).

At the same time, another blog questioned undergraduates’ abilities in critical thinking. In 2016, 60% of employers reported that “new college graduates lack critical thinking skills, based on their survey of over 76,000 managers and executives.”

Jobs for graduate students range from teaching assistants to paid internships to lab techs – LinkedIn has over 1,600 opportunities for graduate students. Post doc and fellowships were common opportunities for these graduates.

Academic life

If you want to be a tenured professor in academia, good luck. The reality is that there are more PhDs applying for fewer tenured jobs. And if you land one here’s another reality checklist:

  • Losing your perspective when you’re so focused on getting the job, you forget about  your long term career goals. You have to make personal sacrifices  and your time investment may not be worth it.
  • Moving, starting over, family turmoil. You might end up far away from family and friends and you don’t have a choice. Your spouse may have to take a lower paying job.
  • Write what they want means that you have to publish with tenure in mind. It’s not about your personal satisfaction (writing what you want). What and where you publish counts toward tenure.
  • It’s not about the money because tenured-track salaries are generally lower than other professions that require a doctorate degree – $55,000 isn’t much after taxes, healthcare and living expenses.

Alt-Ac life

Dr. Patti and I were realistic enough to know that tenured life was not on our radar.  We knew there are other ways to use our education and the skills we gained from our doctorate.

Full time work and school has it’s advantages. For example, you develop the skills that employers are looking for: team work, problem solving, and relevant work experience. You learn to be a critical thinker as you design your research.

I earned my PhD through an online program. Your main source of communication is through writing, you have to develop solid writing skills – it’s not an option. Also, you take new classes every 8 to 12 weeks. You have to switch gears and learn a new ideas quickly.

Work can be a nice break from school because you have to interact with people and keep up your interpersonal skills. Time management is at the top of your list to juggle work and school.

Two years out, Dr. Patti and I are working on different projects to keep our research active. Our alt-ac careers include:

  • Co-authoring a book to help other students survive their academic journey.
  • I created a series of webinars on the global food system for international graduate students in different areas of public policy and administration.
  • Dr. Patti is revising her original research for presentations at the Total Quality Report (TQR) and American Health Information Management Association (AHIMA).
  • I have given presentations on urban agriculture and food systems at local universities in 2016 and 2017.
  • Dr. Patti has pending activities to publish her study in the TQR and AHIMA journals in 2017.
  • I’m working on a book about food policy and the future of food.

We send our best wishes and high hopes for that class of 2017! May you find careers that you love.


Dr. Bessie and Dr. Patti


The James G. Martin Center for Academic Renewal
Job Outlook for 2017 Graduates: Employers Rate the Job Market as ‘Good’
So You Think You Want A Tenure-Track Job?

If you can't explain it simply, you don't understand it well enough.
~~~ Albert Einstein ~~~



Author: Doctor Tales

Doctor Tales Blog

One thought on “Two Years After: Alt-Ac Careers”

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s