Page 45

principles and reasoning, graduate research activities often focus on specialized training and techniques.

In addition, more opportunities are available to graduates who are flexible enough to shift careers. The field that is "hot" when a student enters graduate school might cool by the time of graduation. The first permanent job will seldom be the last, as workers in all fields are expected to change positions and even careers with greater frequency. Job-seekers who do not limit their educational preparation—or their job search—to traditional research positions might be better able to take advantage of a vocational environment that is changing rapidly.

As indicated in Appendix F, committee testimony and written comments from a variety of employers supported that point of view—that employers favor potential employees who

· Can collaborate across disciplines, in various settings, and learn in fields beyond their specialty.

· Can adapt quickly under changing conditions.

· Work well in teams and demonstrate leadership ability.

· Can work with people whose languages and cultures are different from their own.

In some cases, multiple advanced degrees or multidisciplinary backgrounds will be useful. For example, a student who combines a degree in life sciences with a law degree might be well qualified for the specialty of patent law within biotechnology. Likewise, a minor in geology might help an ecologist to obtain employment. Other growing multidisciplinary fields are biostatistics, numerical analysis, operations research, and digital signal processing. In some fields, single projects require multiple skills. For example, engineers with specialties in interdisciplinary fields like transportation are more likely to find employment than their mechanical- or civil-engineering counterparts.

Others have emphasized the extent to which strong scientific training—with its emphasis on analytical problem-solving, experimental strategy, and creativity—prepares a person for productive roles in government, business, and industry beyond roles that require the specific scientific or technical expertise acquired in the education process.

It is impossible to predict whether the rapid growth of traditional positions will resume during the 1990s, as was widely predicted in the late 1980s (Atkinson, 1990; Bowen and Sosa, 1989; NSF, 1989). History has shown that employment trends for graduate scientists and engineers are particularly difficult to forecast (Fechter, 1990; Leslie and Oaxaca, 1990; Vetter, 1993). Public spending on R&D and employment of scientists and engineers can change suddenly in response to unexpected events, such as the launching of Sputnik in 1957 and the collapse of the Soviet Union and the economic recession of the early 1990s. The continuing debate over employment of scientists and engineers clearly requires a continuing re-evaluation of the graduate education and training of scientists and engineers.



The National Academies | 500 Fifth St. N.W. | Washington, D.C. 20001
Copyright © National Academy of Sciences. All rights reserved.
Terms of Use and Privacy Statement