The Forgotten: Graduate Student Career Services

by Martin F. Hill and Dwaine S. Campbell

In Divita’s (1994) Marketing News article, it was noted that even though students put a lot into selecting and succeeding in graduate school, they do not know what they want to do for a career. Since graduate students have completed at least one degree, it is often assumed that they are focused on their career plans. It can also be assumed that they know what to do after graduation. This may not always be the case. The fact that graduate students are working on an advanced degree does not exclude them from the same problems faced by undergraduate students including identifying a career path, developing skills that are common to any productive employee, and learning about options associated with their chosen career path. Rimmer, Lammert, and McClain (1982) conducted an assessment of the graduate student experience. Their results suggest that graduate students need career planning and professional development. The need to develop graduate student career-related activities is as critically important as the need to develop career-related activities for the undergraduate population.

A review of the literature suggests that even if graduate students are aware of their career indecision, they may not be able to get help from their advisors or departments. One reason could be that advisors do not provide assistance for students in identifying greater opportunities to use advanced degrees other than the traditional job choices. Departments and most graduate schools do not address career planning, especially for non-academic positions. Many doctoral programs focus on preparing graduate students for careers in academic settings despite the shortage of such jobs (Bradley, 2001). Graduate students in masters level programs have similar problems. Further, some advisors are unable to relate course content to career exploration (Divita, 1993). This trend may be changing however; doctoral programs at UCLA and the University of Michigan are beginning to offer training in alternative careers (Cage, 1996).

Based upon a review of the literature, we determined that it was important to develop some career exploration activities for graduate students at a midwestern university. In the summer of 2001, a project to help the Career Services Center identify activities to assist graduate student career exploration was initiated. Activities focused on developing services to assist graduate students with their career exploration/planning and job search skills. These activities emphasized discovering needs, developing activities, and creating collaborative relationships among centers that work with graduate students.

The development of activities to assist graduate students in career planning focused on shared ideas and the creation of new approaches. A survey was taken from career services centers across the geographic region and Carnegie Classification peer institutions. Results generated ideas implemented by similar institutions. This allowed our career center to borrow existing ideas from similar institutions. It appeared important to develop a collaborative relationship between the University Counseling and Testing Center, Career Services, and the Graduate School. These offices focus on the needs of graduate students and strive to develop career-planning activities. The desired goal was to develop effective graduate student career-planning activities. As a result of the correspondence between the centers, a list of potential activities was generated. Ideas generated focused on reaching graduate students, refining activities through data collection and analysis, and surveying graduate students and faculty/departments. Suggested activities for graduate students and faculty/departments are listed below, as are potential survey questions.

Suggested activities for graduate students include:

    CV writing
    Job search through the use of the Web
    Converting Resumes to CV’s
    Job search techniques
    Interview skills
    Non-traditional job search

Suggested activities for faculty (advisors) and departments include:

    Department mailings of activities
    Communication with outreach programs
    E-mail survey to advisors and chairs
    Communication between Career Services and Graduate Departments
    Scheduled meetings between Career Services, University Counseling Center and the Graduate School.

Potential survey questions might include: (target audience in parentheses)

    How many masters and doctoral students are in your department? (Department/faculty)
    Has your department addressed career options for your students? (Department/faculty)
    Have you ever used the Career Services Center? (Students)
    How have you conducted your job search? (Students)
    - Advisor help
    - Web Searches
    - Use of journal classifieds
    - Word of mouth
    - Other ________________
    Do you attend the career fairs on campus? (Departments and Students)
    What activities do you think would be helpful to graduate students? (Departments and Students)
    - CV and Resume workshops
    - Searching for non-academic jobs
    - Interview skills
    - Job search techniques (web use)
    - Non-traditional job searches
    - Preparing for a Career Fair
    - Balance between job search and dissertation or thesis work
    - Others_____________________

In conclusion, the goals of these activities are to focus on increasing career counseling activities for graduate students and to strengthen the connections between graduate students, graduate departments, and offices focused on graduate student support. Our hope is to respond to the growing need for graduate student career exploration and not assume that this population has all the answers regarding career planning. Graduate school provides an opportunity to sharpen the skills of graduate students, but it also impacts career growth and development. Let’s provide the necessary guidance to promote positive growth.


Bradley, G. (2001). Graduate education flawed, study finds. Academe, 87(4), 14-15

Cage, M. C. (1996). Some graduate programs offer training for careers outside academe. The Chronicle of Higher Education, 42(27), A20.

Divita, S. (1993). Business schools need career-oriented advisors. Marketing News, 27(2), 15-16.

Divita, S. (1994). Don’t wait until grad school to pick a career. Marketing News, 28(13), 14-15.

Rimmer, S. M., Lammert, M., & McClain, P. (1982). An assessment of graduate student needs. College Student Journal, 16(2), 187-192.

Martin F. Hill, is a faculty member at Central Michigan University's Counseling Center. Martin has nearly 10 years of experience working with Adolescents and Adults dealing with issues such as Career Development and Exploration, Stress Management, Anxiety, Substance Abuse, Decision-making, Study skills and Time Management. He has also taught such courses as Multicultural Counseling, Career Counseling and Development, Counseling Techniques and Human Relations Skills. Martin's research interest are in adolescent decision-making, career development and levels of resilience. You can contact Martin by e-mail at
hill1mf@cmich.edu or hillmart@msu.edu.

Dwaine S. Campbell, M.A. is a Counseling Psychology doctoral student at Michigan State University (MSU). He has provided counseling services to teenagers and young adults with personal and academic concerns. Dwaine currently works as a Graduate Advisor to the M.A. Counseling Program at MSU in addition to teaching in the area of Teacher Education. He has conducted research and presented on topics relating to multicultural counseling and helpseeking behavior. He may be contacted by

email: campb124@msu.edu.

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