Masters and Ph.D. Employment Resources

A graduate degree does not automatically mean that you will work as a professor. In fact, over the last 20 years, there has been a large employment shift. According to the U.S. Department of Labor's Bureau of Labor Statistics, most graduate degree holders now work in industry or the public sector.

Employment options typically fall into two groups:

Academic Employment

Employment options at academic institutions typically fall into these categories:

Graduate Institutions

At these universities, faculty members may teach both undergraduate and graduate courses, as well as supervise theses and dissertations. Independent research is expected of all faculty members, and independent funding through grants may also be an expectation. A Ph.D. is required for faculty status.

Baccalaureate Institutions

Faculty usually have teaching responsibility for several undergraduate courses, and may supervise independent research. Classroom teaching is a major part of tenure evaluation. Research expectations for faculty vary widely from institution to institution, but some research is usually expected. A Ph.D. is usually required for faculty status.

Associate Degree Colleges and Community Colleges

Faculty members typically teach very applied courses related to a trade or vocation. A master’s degree is required for employment.

Private College Prep schools

Faculty are hired to teach and work with students preparing for admission to one of the above institutions. A master’s degree is usually required for employment.

Industry and Private Sector Employment

Industry is focused and goal driven—and this sometimes can translate into less day-to-day flexibility than academic jobs. Private sector employers may be quicker to reward good work, and generally allow you to branch into career directions unrelated to your degree, unlike tenure-track jobs. Each individual company is different, and it’s important to research potential employers to see if they are a good match for your personality and interests.

Career Preparation

Where to Begin

The College of Natural Science (NatSci) has many career-related resources available to you. Whether you are seeking career information about graduate school, Ph.D. programs and/or professional program areas, we have a variety of resources to assist you. To learn more about available career resources, contact Brian Telfor, NatSci career consultant.

You can also take advantage of the additional career preparation resources listed below.

MSU Graduate School

The MSU Graduate School provides a number of career development resources for graduate students and postdoctoral scholars. Workshops for career preparation for faculty, industry, government and other roles are held year-round, as well as workshops on additional topics relevant for graduate professional development, including conflict resolution, time management and leadership. The office of Ph.D. Career Services is also housed in the Graduate School. It provides one-on-one advising, online resources and opportunities for students to connect with employers and graduate level alumni. Last, but not least, is the Graduate School's professional development website Career Success, with its nationally recognized career and professional development model PREP.

In 2014, MSU became one of 17 institutions in the nation to win a 5-year NIH BEST grant (BEST: Broadening Experiences in Scientific Training). MSU BEST is designed to empower trainees—Ph.D. students and postdocs in the biomedical sciences—to develop professional skills and experiences that will permit them to pursue careers that are personally and professionally meaningful. This includes careers in academia, industry, government, policy, science writing and more. Instructions on applying to become a BEST scholar.

Job Search Resources

Your strategy will depend on which type of employment you choose. However, one factor will remain constant: the people you know will be your best resource. Your friends, family, graduate advisors and professional society will be important sources of information and advice.

You should also begin collecting and preparing the professional documents for your job search well in advance. The two most important pieces of advice are write down or document everything you do, and don’t throw anything out.

You will need to show significant scholarly activity in your CV, and you will need examples of your work when you go to an interview. For more information, visit:

Job Search Websites

Reading Resources - This website has industry career profiles, career paths, interviews with both students and established researchers, and help with networking. A must-read for all graduate students from AAAS.

The Chronicle of Higher Education - This is a must-read for any students considering employment in higher education. In addition to the largest collection of job postings, it has articles on trends and issues for those employed in academia, and career columns.

Early Career Resources from HHMI - Dedicated to advancing science education, HHMI provides powerful teaching tools for use in high schools, colleges, and universities across the country, free of charge.