It’s hard out here for an academic

UChicagoGRAD program provides students with practical resources that they can use to find jobs in a competitive market.

By Maroon Editorial Board

This Wednesday, the University announced UChicagoGRAD, a new program to make career-related resources more available and streamlined for graduate students. In addition to honing academic writing and teaching skills, the program will also concentrate on helping graduate students develop professional skills for careers outside of academia. Given the competitive job market in academia, this is a welcome development for graduate students who will be exposed to more options for their post-graduation plans.

Graduate students now face extreme difficulties in finding jobs in academia. This problem is particularly acute in the humanities. In 2013, just 54 percent of humanities Ph.D. students nationwide had found academic jobs or postdoctoral fellowships by graduation. In many fields, the number of open faculty positions has plummeted. For example, in 2001, more than 1,800 jobs were open for new English Ph.D. graduates; in 2013, there were only 1,000. Furthermore, now 76 percent of academic jobs are part-time or adjunct. This reflects a broader problem in academia, stemming from a mismatch in the supply of and demand for tenure-track positions. The number of Ph.D.s accepted each year is far higher than the number of tenure-track job openings. What results is the ability of universities to hire postgraduate students on the cheap as research or lab assistants, with little possibility of advancement.

In such a difficult job market, it is crucial that the University provide graduate students with the best possible resources as they begin their job search. The new UChicagoGRAD program will help do this. It is also noteworthy that the program will aid graduate students looking for non-academic jobs in nonprofits, the government, and the corporate world. This broad focus will ensure that all graduate students are able to find support, regardless of their career goals and aspirations, and will complement the efforts of individual departments to do more to aid these students.

In addition, the resources offered through UChicagoGRAD will benefit undergraduates as well as graduate students. UChicagoGRAD will expand the pedagogical support offered to graduate students through the Chicago Center for Teaching (CCT). The CCT provides training, consultations, and feedback to graduate students teaching courses for the first time. Many grad students must fulfill a teaching requirement, and most students in the College will have a graduate student as an instructor at least once—often in Hum and Sosc courses. Making more teaching support available to graduate students can only improve undergraduates’ experiences in these courses.

When conditions are so difficult for graduate students trying to begin their careers, the University has a duty to increase its support. UChicagoGRAD provides more resources for the students who need them most.

—The Maroon Editorial Board