Jobseekers with postgraduate degrees
are often challenged when translating
their academic backgrounds to industry
employers, often due to misconceptions of
what graduate studies entail and the skills
they provide. In my opinion, professionals
holding postgraduate degrees generally do
not market their degrees very well.
These specialized jobseekers need to
address three questions to achieve success in their job hunts: 1)
What are the
transferable skills that can be provided
by a graduate degree to industry? 2)
have industries grown resistant to higher
education? 3) How can I address misconceptions?
1. What are the Transferable Skills?
The answer to the first question crosses all
professions. The focus should be on the
skills acquired by pursuing higher education.
First, we should consider every person
who earns a graduate degree a hero. They
decided to hone their skills beyond a
bachelor’s degree into a particular specialty, often sacrificing opportunities to
enter the job market right away.
And think about this, according to the
Council of Graduate Schools, the completion rate for postgraduate degrees has
been about 50–60% in the last few years (1,2). In other words, half of the people
who enter graduate programs do not
finish. It is not an easy task; it requires
tenacity as well as monetary and personal
sacrifices. Individuals who delve into this
process and manage to accomplish it have
already proven they can succeed on a big project. Consider them project managers in a sense. These project managers are
responsible for budgeting, data collection,
conducting a novel research idea, critically
thinking about the current methods used
in the industry and trying to improve
Finally, most graduate degrees require
a final project that has to be expertly
written, critiqued by peers and specialists
and presented. These skills are essential to
success in any business.
Jobseekers with newly minted graduate
degrees must communicate these transferable skills to potential employers.
2. Why the Resistance?
There are many reasons some employers
are reluctant to hire postgraduates. This
could be, in part, due to comedies that
tap into the stereotype of socially awkward
scientists such as those portrayed in The
Nutty Professor or The Big Bang Theory. I
completely agree that at least 50% all the
scientists I have met are socially awkward—but so is most of the entire human
Another unfortunate misconception
is that highly educated individuals are
seen as expensive, independent thinkers.
But is this not required for success? Add
to this, that they are also often held to
higher, unrealistic standards. For example,
I remember when I was at Arizona State
University, someone’s relative gave him a
rock and, this being a biologist doctorate
it. The poor
guy did not know what to do other than
seek help. How can you explain to your relative that biology is different from geology, let alone that you, as a scientist, do
not know everything about everything?
3. How to Address Misconceptions?
The burden is on postgraduate jobseekers
to explain why their advanced degrees are
relevant and how can they help benefit
employers. Those postgraduates who have
achieved industry success, in my opinion,
have a moral obligation to advise these
jobseekers trying to enter their fields.
Higher education institutions should
continue to improve their outreach to industries. Industry employers, on the other
hand, should consider jobseekers with
graduate degrees as highly qualified people
who can think outside the box.
Yet, in spite of these “shoulds,” the onus
is on graduate degree holders to sell their
degrees to employers. A graduate degree
is a valuable asset that needs marketing.
Graduating with a master’s or a doctoral
degree is not a guarantee of finding a
good job, nor does it speak for itself.
People with graduate degrees should strive
to promote their skills and continue to
be open to learning more, as they have
A version of this article
first appeared on the author’s personal LinkedIn page.]
- “The Crucial Issue of Doctoral Non-completion.” Council of Graduate Schools. https://cgsnet.org (2007)
- Council of Graduate Schools. Ph.D. Completion and Attrition: Analysis of Baseline Demographic Data from
the Ph.D. Completion Project.