Re. so long....

C. Boake cboake at
Wed Apr 23 11:27:48 EST 1997

In article <33553B2D.349D at>, RAZR01 at wrote:

> On Fri, 11 Apr 1997 11:03:47 -0400 
> wheless at (Karen Wheless) wrote:
> >  Science professors are just the last to pass the news on to
> > their students - unlike, say, history professors, who are usually pretty
> > blunt about unemployment in their field. 
> I agree with Karen's observation and I see a growing concern 
> among grad students about lack of information on future job 
> opportunities as well as "alternative" career paths 
> available. I think that this lack of information is probably 
> related to the following: who is doing most of the 
> experimental work at universities, and what would happen if 
> professors gave a black picture of job opportunities in 
> scientific careers?
> Regina

I think that the issue is far more complex and subtle than this.  First,
it takes huge energy and drive to become successful in academic science,
and thus it is not surprising that the successful scientists don't know
much about the outside world and the realities of employment (not
excusable, however).  Second, when you have committed your life and made
many sacrifices to get where you are, you are unlikely to consider that
any other career path could be equally rewarding, and thus are not
equipped to help students find alternatives.  Third, remember that most
faculty are not trained to be advisers any more than they are trained to
be lecturers -- some of the most important roles that faculty play are
ones that they are supposed to pick up on their own.

This myopia regarding alternatives to an academic career extends up the
ladder beyond graduate school.  Many administrators rise from the faculty
ranks, but very few of them are respected for what they do.  They are
"supposed" to be doing research and teaching, and administration is seen
as second-best.  Faculty who try to do something else besides being
faculty members are often seen as copping out on their calling.  In other
walks of life, career changes are expected, but not in academia.  

If your advisor tells you that you are wasting your potential by not
pursuing an academic career, what would happen if you asked, "why do you
think that an academic career is the only valid way to spend a life?" (I'm
not necessarily recommending that anyone do this, but it makes a nice
thought experiment.)


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