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What Can You Do With Your Degree?

January 2021

Your degree – whether it be in art, STEM, humanities, business, education, or another area – offers myriad career opportunities. Although we often hear about jobs in academia or industry, there are endless options outside of those confines as well. The knowledge and skills you gain in graduate school can translate to careers you may not even have known were an option. This month's module aims to highlight some of these non-academic and non-industry options, including the specific jobs that are available within different career paths, how you can leverage your existing skills, and resources available.

In this month’s module, we will be exploring career paths outside of academia and industry to highlight the many doors opened by a

graduate degree. 

 

We hope that you continue engaging with this content beyond the end of the module.

MODULE 1

Communication

January 4 - 10, 2021

Love staying on top of the latest research, current events, or trending stories?  Can’t see yourself conducting your own research for the rest of your life? Tired of all that jargon but enjoy using analogies to convey complex concepts? Communication might be for you!

What is Communication?
Communication is the practice of educating, increasing awareness, and instilling a sense of wonder in the public about discoveries. Communicators transform complicated research and ideas that the public ought to know about into digestible presentations, stories, graphics and videos to connect with audiences of all education levels and backgrounds.
How Academic Skills Translate

Just like researchers, communications rely on the scientific method. Just like you might be familiar with testing your hypothesis through a series experimental methods before writing and revising a publication, a communicator (especially a writer) gathers a plethora of background information before developing a story idea (hypothesis). Then, they collect a lot of data (interviews, documents), analyze it, and write about the topic in a way that tells a story - much like a research paper!

 

Your expertise understanding the scientific process and being able to read research manuscripts will give you a leg up on communicators without a specialized background. 

 

Strong written and verbal communication skills developed as a graduate student, especially if you’ve had experience presenting to general audiences, will also be an asset in this type of career!

Type of Jobs
There are many flavors of communicators, including journalists, public information officers, graphic designers and freelancers. Journalists write about science in an unbiased fashion with the public’s interest at heart, while public information officers or those who work for a biotech company or academic institution are often writing to promote their internal researchers. Freelancers don’t work for a single media organization or institution and instead work independently for one or more entities. Graphic designers use images to convey concepts. 
How to Prepare
There are many ways to gain experience for work in communications.
Here are a few ideas:
  • AAAS Mass Media Fellowship
  • Internships with various media outlets
  • Communication, design, and journalism classes

MODULE 2

Policy

January 11 - 17, 2021

Have you ever wondered how policies regarding all things science and research are made? Ever been curious about how governmental agencies respond to issues that relates to your research? If you enjoy being part of student government or enjoy talking to your local governmental bodies, then a career in policy might suit you!

What is Policy?
Policy broadly refers to bridging the gap between research, the general public, and government to advice on policies relating to natural sciences, medicine, education, transportation, engineering, and more. 
How Academic Skills Translate

The world of policy isn’t so far off what you might be used to as a researcher. Although you may not always be working on issues relating to your research, the skills you’ve gained in your training as a researcher will help launch your policy career. For instance, reading and translating convoluted concepts to policy makers works similarly to journal club presentations in lab or presenting your research to the general public through blog posts. Similarly to keeping your lab work organized, policy work requires excellent project management skills, independence, delegating tasks and writing

Type of Jobs
The flexibility of policy makes it enticing and a  beauty of this career path is that there is a plethora of ways to advocate for issues that are of importance to you. You can get involved in policy on a state level advising your local congress on specific issues, working within professional organizations such as the American Chemical Society  to advocate for more funding, lobbying groups, non-governmental agencies, or even on the federal level if you fancy working in D.C! 
How to Prepare
There are many ways to gain experience for policy work. Some of these includes the numerous federal and or state fellowships available to immerse students into policy and advocacy. Some of these fellowships are the AAAS fellowships, Mirzayan Fellowship, and NIH emerging leaders program. Not ready to commit to a fellowship? You can gain viable experience in your own community by participating in Hill Day to address your local government!

MODULE 3

Education and Outreach

January 18 - 24, 2021

As graduate students, we’ve dedicated a large portion of our lives to our own education. A passion for lifelong learning can also translate into education of others and outreach within our communities!

What is Education/Outreach?
Education and outreach involves interfacing with the non-academic community to disseminate knowledge or skills gained during graduate studies and to engage the public in various content areas.
 
The goal is to further the education of others in a setting outside of traditional higher academia.
Type of Jobs
There are myriad jobs that fall under the purview of education and outreach. If you’re interested in the cultivation of knowledge and academic interest in younger minds, you may consider a position as a K-12 teacher or a curriculum coordinator. Other options that allow you to educate within a specific field include educator or directors at organizations such as science centers, zoos, museums, or nature preserves. Finally, if you prefer to curate and organize information for the benefit of many others, a position as a conference organizer or library manager may be for you.
How Academic Skills Translate

Having spent most of our lives being educated naturally prepares us to become educators ourselves, given our considerable first-hand experience with effective learning strategies. With our graduate education, we learn not only to find and critically evaluate information, but also how to distill this complex information into simpler formats and how to present the information in dynamic and engaging ways as we teach others through conferences presentations or manuscripts. Further, our experience with TAing and mentoring younger students provides us with direct teaching experience and may help us determine if this is something we want to focus on in our career.

The world of education and outreach extends far beyond that of professorships and research labs, with many possibilities to engage the non-academic public in areas you are passionate about. With skills in information gathering and dissemination, teaching and mentoring, and general organizational strategies, as well as much trial-and-error of learning ourselves, graduate education has well-equipped to continue our journey through education and outreach.

MODULE 4

Out-of-the-Box

January 25 - 31, 2021

Maybe you’re looking for a career that’s only tangentially related to your field of study, whether that be chemistry, history or art. The great news is that your academic training to think critically about a subject - to really pick it apart and discover something new - will be an asset in whatever you do!

Check out the word cloud below for some ideas for careers that fall outside the box of your degree. We encourage you to use this as a starting point to do more research on your own!

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