Understanding PhD Career Pathways for Program Improvement

    To support the careers of current and aspiring PhD holders, our nation’s universities need a better understanding of their career pathways and professional preparation. With support from the National Science Foundation (NSF #1661272) and The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, CGS is working to help universities collect data on the career pathways of STEM and humanities PhDs. Seventy doctoral institutions are participating in the project by helping CGS gather information about the professional aspirations, career pathways, and career preparation of their PhD students and alumni. 


    Request for Proposals: PhD Career Pathways Data Collection in the Humanities

    With support from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, CGS will award five new $15,000 subawards over a period of 24 months to support data collection on humanities PhD alumni. Any U.S. or Canadian doctoral-granting CGS member institution that meets the minimum qualifications outlined in the Request for Proposals (RFP) is welcome to apply. Please refer to the RFP for more information on eligibility, selection criteria and instructions on how to apply in this virtual folder. The deadline for applications is May 22, 2020. 


    Project Overview

    Over the course of this three-year project, universities are collecting data from current PhD students and alumni using surveys that were developed by CGS in consultation with senior university leaders, funding agencies, disciplinary societies, researchers, and PhD students and alumni. The resulting data is allowing universities to analyze PhD career preferences and outcomes at the program level and help faculty and university leaders strengthen career services, professional development opportunities, and mentoring. Access our project flyer for more information.



    CGS began releasing aggregate project data in Fall 2018. Check back soon for additional data briefs. 


    Alumni and Student Surveys

    The CGS PhD Career Pathways surveys are designed to:

    • Be administered by graduate schools or graduate programs.
    • Capture the career aspirations and program experiences of 2nd and 5th-year PhD students.
    • Capture snapshots of PhD alumni career progression at three, eight, and fifteen years since earning a doctorate in STEM (including social sciences) and humanities fields. 
    • Complement existing federal datasets such as the Survey of Earned Doctorates (SED) and Survey of Doctorate Recipients (SDR) as well as those assembled by the Association of American Universities Data Exchange (AAUDE), and individual institutions.
    • Inform career services, professional development opportunities, and mentoring at individual graduate school and doctoral program levels.


    For final versions of the PhD Career Pathways surveys and the Implementation Guide, please contact Enyu Zhou.


    Project Partners

    For more information on the project partners, please read and download the Career Pathways project flyer.


    Background and Past Press Releases

    The current phase of Understanding PhD Career Pathways is built upon two previous projects: a feasibility study funded by the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation and The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, and a planning grant funded by the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation, The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, and the National Science Foundation (NSF #1534620). Findings from the feasibility study are summarized in a 2014 report, Understanding PhD Career Pathways for Program Improvement.


    Four Minority-Serving Institutions Selected to Join CGS’s PhD Career Pathways Project

    Coalition of Universities Selected to Gather Data about PhD Career Pathways

    CGS Announces Multi-University Project to Collect Data on Career Pathways of STEM PhDs and Alumni

    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




    Jeff Engler

    Julia Kent

    Hironao Okahana




    This material is based upon work supported by the National Science Foundation under Grant No. (NSF #1661272). Any opinions, findings, and conclusions or recommendations expressed in this project do not necessarily reflect the views of the National Science Foundation.


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