Understanding Career Pathways

    No single existing dataset can give institutions or humanities and social science graduate programs the granular PhD career pathways information they need to improve their programs. National datasets such as the Survey of Earned Doctorates (SED) and the Survey of Doctorate Recipients (SDR), while valuable for demonstrating certain aspects of PhD careers at the national level, do not give individual doctoral programs information specific enough to be used for program improvement.


    Pilot Phase

    In 2016, CGS was awarded a grant from The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation to help universities collect data on the career pathways of humanities PhDs. Through a competitive sub-award process, CGS will select 15 doctoral institutions to pilot surveys of humanities PhD students and alumni, gathering information about their professional aspirations, career pathways, and career preparation. CGS issued a Request-For-Proposals (RFP) with the survey instruments and an Implementation Guide that offers a framework for successful implementation. In addition to collecting aggregate data from partners, CGS will gather information about the implementation process with a view to developing recommended practices for data collection and analysis.

    Request for Proposals (RFP)


    Planning Grant

    In 2015 the Council of Graduate Schools (CGS) was awarded grants from the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation, the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, and the National Science Foundation (NSF #1534620) to advance national and local understandings of the career pathways of PhD holders. With input from a range of stakeholders in the higher education community, CGS developed two survey instruments (one for current PhD students and one for alumni) and guidelines for data collection across a broad range of fields. These guidelines will help universities gather long-term career information from their PhD students and alumni with the goal of improving PhD programs.


    Feasibility Study

    The CGS planning grant builds upon the results of a one-year study to evaluate the feasibility of a larger project to develop and enhance templates and processes designed to track the career pathways of PhD alumni of STEM, humanities, and social science graduate programs. Also funded by the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation and The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, the project included the development of a white paper summarizing what is currently known about the demand for career tracking at the doctoral level in STEM, humanities, and social science fields; a survey of all doctoral granting CGS members to formally document processes for tracking alumni from CGS member institutions; and a workshop that included graduate deans, PhD holders, and methodology experts. Download the project report


    Press Releases

    CGS Announces Multi-University Project to Collect Data on Career Pathways of Humanities PhDs

    CGS Builds on Efforts to Understand PhD Career Pathways

    Experts Convene to Explore Challenges of Understanding PhD Career Pathways

    CGS Launches Project to Study Feasibility of Tracking PhD Career Pathways


    Additional Resources

    CGS has compiled a list of resources for institutions, deans, and program directors seeking more information about solutions and challenges in tracking career pathways of PhDs.




    Supported by grants from the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation, The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation and the National Science Foundation (NSF #1534620).




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