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Suggested Citation:"FRONT MATTER." Institute of Medicine, National Academy of Sciences, and National Academy of Engineering. 1996. Careers in Science and Engineering: A Student Planning Guide to Grad School and Beyond. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/5129.
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Careers in Science and Engineering

A Student Planning Guide to Grad School and Beyond

Committee on Science, Engineering, and Public Policy

NATIONAL ACADEMY OF SCIENCES

NATIONAL ACADEMY OF ENGINEERING

INSTITUTE OF MEDICINE

NATIONAL ACADEMY PRESS
Washington, D.C.
1996

Suggested Citation:"FRONT MATTER." Institute of Medicine, National Academy of Sciences, and National Academy of Engineering. 1996. Careers in Science and Engineering: A Student Planning Guide to Grad School and Beyond. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/5129.
×

National Academy Press
2101 Constitution Ave., N.W. Washington, DC 20418

NOTICE: This volume was produced as part of a project approved by the Governing Board of the National Research Council, whose members are drawn from the councils of the National Academy of Sciences, the National Academy of Engineering, and the Institute of Medicine. It is a result of work done by the Committee on Science, Engineering, and Public Policy (COSEPUP) as augmented, which has authorized its release to the public. This report has been reviewed by a group other than the authors according to procedures approved by COSEPUP and the Report Review Committee.

Financial Support: The development of this guide was supported by the Arthur L. Day Fund of the National Academy of Sciences. Support for the dissemination of this guide was provided by the Burroughs Wellcome Fund, Shell Oil Company Foundation, Glaxo Wellcome Inc., Bristol-Myers Squibb Pharmaceutical Research Institute, Philips Research, and the following disciplinary societies: American Chemical Society, American Institute of Physics, American Mathematical Society, Society for Industrial and Applied Mathematics, American Sociological Association, American Association of Medical Colleges, American Psychological Association, American Geophysical Union, Geological Society of America, American Society for Cell Biology, American Astronomical Society, National Consortium for Graduate Degrees for Minorities in Science and Engineering, American Geological Institute, Sigma Xi, the Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology, the American Society for Microbiology, the American Institute for Biological Sciences, and the American Physical Society.

Internet Access: This report is available on the National Academy of Sciences' Internet host. It may be accessed via World Wide Web at www.nas.edu, via Gopher at gopher.nas.edu, or via FTP at ftp.nas.edu.

Copyright 1996 by the National Academy of Sciences. All rights reserved. This document may be reproduced solely for educational purposes without the written permission of the National Academy of Sciences.

Cover illustration by Leigh Coriale.

Printed in the United States of America

Suggested Citation:"FRONT MATTER." Institute of Medicine, National Academy of Sciences, and National Academy of Engineering. 1996. Careers in Science and Engineering: A Student Planning Guide to Grad School and Beyond. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/5129.
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COMMITTEE ON SCIENCE, ENGINEERING, AND PUBLIC POLICY

PHILLIP A. GRIFFITHS (Chair), Director,

Institute for Advanced Study

BRUCE M. ALBERTS,* President,

National Academy of Sciences

WILLIAM F. BRINKMAN, Vice President,

Physical Sciences Research, AT&T Bell Laboratories

DAVID R. CHALLONER, Vice President of Health Affairs,

University of Florida

ELLIS B. COWLING, University Distinguished Professor At-Large,

North Carolina State University

GERALD P. DINNEEN, Retired Vice President,

Science and Technology, Honeywell, Inc.

ALEXANDER H. FLAX, Consultant,

Potomac, Maryland

RALPH E. GOMORY, President,

Alfred P. Sloan Foundation

M.R.C. GREENWOOD, Dean,

Graduate Studies, and

Vice Provost,

Academic Outreach, University of California, Davis

RUBY P. HEARN, Vice President,

The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation

MARIAN KOSHLAND, Professor of Immunology,

Department of Molecular and Cell Biology, University of California, Berkeley

THOMAS D. LARSON, Consultant,

Lemont, Pennsylvania

HAROLD LIEBOWITZ,* President,

National Academy of Engineering

DANIEL L. McFADDEN, Director,

Department of Economics, University of California, Berkeley

MARY J. OSBORN, Head,

Department of Microbiology, University of Connecticut Health Center

KENNETH I. SHINE,* President,

Institute of Medicine

MORRIS TANENBAUM, Vice President,

National Academy of Engineering

WILLIAM JULIUS WILSON, Lucy Flower University Professor of Sociology and Public Policy,

University of Chicago

LAWRENCE E. McCRAY, Executive Director

*  

Ex officio member.

Suggested Citation:"FRONT MATTER." Institute of Medicine, National Academy of Sciences, and National Academy of Engineering. 1996. Careers in Science and Engineering: A Student Planning Guide to Grad School and Beyond. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/5129.
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Suggested Citation:"FRONT MATTER." Institute of Medicine, National Academy of Sciences, and National Academy of Engineering. 1996. Careers in Science and Engineering: A Student Planning Guide to Grad School and Beyond. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/5129.
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PROJECT GUIDANCE GROUP

ARDEN L. BEMENT (Chair), Basil S. Turner Distinguished Professor of Engineering,

Purdue University

DAVID R. CHALLONER, Vice President for Health Affairs,

University of Florida

ELLIS B. COWLING, University Distinguished Professor At-Large,

North Carolina State University

GERALD P. DINNEEN, Retired Vice President,

Science and Technology, Honeywell, Inc.

PHILLIP A. GRIFFITHS, Director,

Institute for Advanced Study

RUBY P. HEARN, Vice President,

The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation

PHILLIP A. SHARP, Head,

Department of Biology, Center for Cancer Research, Massachusetts Institute of Technology

Principal Project Staff

DEBORAH D. STINE, Associate Director for Special Projects

TAMAE M. WONG, Senior Program Officer

ALAN ANDERSON, Consultant-Writer

NORMAN GROSSBLATT, Editor

PATRICK P. SEVCIK, Project Assistant

Suggested Citation:"FRONT MATTER." Institute of Medicine, National Academy of Sciences, and National Academy of Engineering. 1996. Careers in Science and Engineering: A Student Planning Guide to Grad School and Beyond. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/5129.
×

The National Academy of Sciences (NAS) is a private, nonprofit, self-perpetuating society of distinguished scholars engaged in scientific and engineering research, dedicated to the furtherance of science and technology and to their use for the general welfare. Under the authority of the charter granted to it by Congress in 1863, the Academy has a working mandate that calls on it to advise the federal government on scientific and technical matters. Dr. Bruce M. Alberts is president of the NAS.

The National Academy of Engineering (NAE) was established in 1964, under the charter of the NAS, as a parallel organization of distinguished engineers. It is autonomous in its administration and in the selection of members, sharing with the NAS its responsibilities for advising the federal government. The National Academy of Engineering also sponsors engineering programs aimed at meeting national needs, encourages education and research, and recognizes the superior achievements of engineers. Dr. Harold Liebowitz is president of the NAE.

The Institute of Medicine (IOM) was established in 1970 by the NAS to secure the services of eminent members of appropriate professions in the examination of policy matters pertaining to the health of the public. The Institute acts under the responsibility given to the NAS in its congressional charter to be an adviser to the federal government and, on its own initiative, to identify issues of medical care, research, and education. Dr. Kenneth I. Shine is president of the IOM.

The Committee on Science, Engineering, and Public Policy (COSEPUP) is a joint committee of the NAS, the NAE, and the IOM. It includes current and former members of the councils of all three bodies.

Suggested Citation:"FRONT MATTER." Institute of Medicine, National Academy of Sciences, and National Academy of Engineering. 1996. Careers in Science and Engineering: A Student Planning Guide to Grad School and Beyond. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/5129.
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Preface

This guide is intended to help upper-division undergraduate and graduate students in science, engineering, and mathematics to make career and educational choices.

Although it is understandable that students, particularly at the graduate level, identify with their faculty mentors and often aspire to academic research careers, education in science and engineering can be extremely valuable for a wide variety of career opportunities. Some of those careers involve direct participation in science or engineering—for example, as a chemist or engineer in industry or as a professional who performs research and development. Many others involve using a science and engineering background. For example, one might teach about science and engineering in schools or through the media or provide advice or develop policies on matters relevant to science or engineering. Each of these activities is a legitimate and valuable use of a science or engineering background.

We need not focus on the doing of science and engineering as the only appropriate sequel to advanced study. To do so implicitly (and sometimes explicitly) has the effect of de-

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Suggested Citation:"FRONT MATTER." Institute of Medicine, National Academy of Sciences, and National Academy of Engineering. 1996. Careers in Science and Engineering: A Student Planning Guide to Grad School and Beyond. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/5129.
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valuing other career goals and excluding potentially important experiences from our education programs. The report Reshaping the Graduate Education of Scientists and Engineers (1995), by the Committee on Science, Engineering, and Public Policy (COSEPUP) of the National Academy of Sciences (NAS), National Academy of Engineering (NAE), and Institute of Medicine (IOM), demonstrates that students need flexible career preparation and urges a re-evaluation of graduate education so that it will prepare students better for productive careers. Discussions during the preparation and dissemination of that report indicated the need for a guide designed specifically to help students to plan their educational and professional careers. This guide is a result of those discussions. It seeks to assist students in taking a much broader view of the potential applications of their science and engineering education.

It is supplemented by the Internet Career Planning Center For Beginning Scientists and Engineers, which can be reached via the Academies' homepage at http://www2.nas.edu/cpc. At this online career-planning center, students will find up-to-date guidance and information, including a bulletin board where they can ask questions and seek advice about their education or career, a one-on-one mentoring program, lists of specific employment opportunities, education and career analysis focused on students' questions, and sources of more discipline- and occupation-specific information. An online version of this guide can also be obtained at the center.

Which Sections Are For You?

Different parts of this student guide will help students at different stages of their career and education. You might

Suggested Citation:"FRONT MATTER." Institute of Medicine, National Academy of Sciences, and National Academy of Engineering. 1996. Careers in Science and Engineering: A Student Planning Guide to Grad School and Beyond. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/5129.
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want to skip through the guide to sections that are most relevant to you.

Secondary-school students and undecided undergraduates can use the guide to help them to understand careers in science and engineering and to find practical tips on how to proceed.

Undergraduate students currently studying science and engineering can use this guide to decide what careers they are interested in pursuing (Chapter 2), evaluate their skills and attributes (Chapter 3), and determine whether they need additional graduate education or a professional education. If they decide to pursue graduate education in science or engineering, Chapter 4 will help them to select a graduate school and major.

Beginning graduate students will have made many of the educational choices described in Chapter 4, but the material on advisors, research topics, achieving breadth, and ensuring progress should be of interest.

Chapters 2, 3, and 5 will also be of use for more-experienced students. Like those who are approaching the end of their undergraduate education, students approaching the end of their graduate studies will want to evaluate their careers and their personal skills and attributes as they decide what to do during the next stage of their lives. Some students will be interested in pursuing a career immediately; others will want additional graduate or professional education or post-doctoral appointments.

Students who have already chosen their careers might still find this guide valuable. The guide emphasizes personal flexibility and broad education. It also provides sources of information that students can use in evaluating the potential job market in a chosen area. A sizable fraction of even

Suggested Citation:"FRONT MATTER." Institute of Medicine, National Academy of Sciences, and National Academy of Engineering. 1996. Careers in Science and Engineering: A Student Planning Guide to Grad School and Beyond. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/5129.
×

the most dedicated students will not necessarily find a career in their chosen occupation and should be prepared to look elsewhere.

The guide also seeks to be helpful to those who administer graduate programs and to faculty members and others who advise students. Graduate students need more and better information about careers, and faculty advisers can play an important role in supplying it.

Although this guide is brief and informal, it is designed to be useful throughout your career. The information in it should be relevant to students interested not only in research careers, but in other science-oriented careers as well.

Where Do the Information and Guidance Come From?

The content of this guide was shaped by information gathered from focus groups and surveys of students and postdoctoral appointees. The surveys revealed students' desire for additional help in answering such questions as the following:

  • Should I go to graduate school, and where?
  • Where can I get advice about different disciplines?
  • What type of experience should I obtain beyond my formal classwork?
  • What classes should I take outside my major?
  • Should I stop at the master's level or pursue a PhD?
  • What should be the relationship between me and my research adviser?
  • How my career goals affect my choice of thesis topic?
  • What nonresearch skills do I need, and how do I attain them?
Suggested Citation:"FRONT MATTER." Institute of Medicine, National Academy of Sciences, and National Academy of Engineering. 1996. Careers in Science and Engineering: A Student Planning Guide to Grad School and Beyond. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/5129.
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  • Is a postdoctoral experience desirable for me?
  • How much salary will I make when I graduate? Is it worth the investment in time and opportunity cost?

Students also expressed a need for career guidance information on

  • Identifying careers.
  • Educational requirements for various careers.
  • Off-campus and postgraduate research and education (extramural programs).
  • Skills and attributes that could improve employment options.

Addressing issues like these is fundamental to a satisfying professional career. In these pages, we encourage students to seek help from peers, friends, advisers, and many other sources in planning a career in science and engineering. It is true that you, the student, are finally responsible for shaping your own career, but your success is largely a product of the abundance and accuracy of career information and the guidance of those familiar with the world beyond graduate school.

Preparation of this guide, a companion publication to COSEPUP's other student guide, On Being a Scientist: Responsible Conduct in Research (1995), was overseen by a guidance group consisting of Arden Bement (chair), David Challoner, Ellis Cowling, Ralph Gomory, M.R.C. Greenwood, Phillip Griffiths, Ruby Hearn, Gerald Dinneen, and Phillip Sharp. The group was aided by early reviews of its guide by an external advisory group consisting of graduate students and professors, members of science and engineering disciplinary societies and organizations, and focus groups of gradu-

Suggested Citation:"FRONT MATTER." Institute of Medicine, National Academy of Sciences, and National Academy of Engineering. 1996. Careers in Science and Engineering: A Student Planning Guide to Grad School and Beyond. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/5129.
×

ate and postgraduate students. Staff for the project included Deborah Stine, associate director for special projects for COSEPUP; Alan Anderson, science writer; and Tamae Maeda Wong, senior program officer.

BRUCE M. ALBERTS

President, National Academy of Sciences

HAROLD LIEBOWITZ

President, National Academy of Engineering

KENNETH I. SHINE

President, Institute of Medicine

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Suggested Citation:"FRONT MATTER." Institute of Medicine, National Academy of Sciences, and National Academy of Engineering. 1996. Careers in Science and Engineering: A Student Planning Guide to Grad School and Beyond. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/5129.
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Acknowledgments

The committee thanks particularly its external advisory group, who provided valuable guidance throughout the development of this guide:

MARY R. ANDERSON-ROWLAND, Associate Dean of Student Affairs and Special Programs, College of Engineering and Applied Science, Arizona State University

RICHARD ATTIYEH, Office of Graduate Studies and Research, University of California, San Diego

ANDREW G. EWING, Professor of Chemistry, Pennsylvania State University

EDWIN GOLDIN, Manager, Career Planning and Placement, American Institute of Physics

CATHARINE E. JOHNSON, Graduate Student, Department of Biological Chemistry, Johns Hopkins School of Medicine

IRENE KENNEDY, Career Consultant and former Manager, FASEB Career Resources

PETER A. LEWIS, Managing Director, Educational Activities, The Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers, Inc.

PETER SYVERSON, Vice President for Research and Information Services, Council of Graduate Schools

EDEL WASSERMAN, Science Advisor, Central Research and Development, E.I. du Pont de Nemours & Co.

CRYSTAL WILLIAMS, Graduate Student, Department of Chemistry, Louisiana State University

Suggested Citation:"FRONT MATTER." Institute of Medicine, National Academy of Sciences, and National Academy of Engineering. 1996. Careers in Science and Engineering: A Student Planning Guide to Grad School and Beyond. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/5129.
×

In addition, the committee thanks the students of Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, Maryland, the University of California, Irvine, and Georgetown University in Washington, D.C., who participated in focus-group sessions and students at Yale University and Florida State University who commented on early drafts. All provided invaluable suggestions on earlier drafts of the guide.

Special thanks also go to the individuals who agreed to be profiled in this report: Carol Balfe, Mary Carol Day, Bill Edge, Mark Ferrari, Diana Garcia-Prichard, Russell Greig, Steve Hays, Janice Hicks, Patricia Hoben, Toby Horn, Resha Putzrath, Rochelle Seide, and Shankar Vedantam.

Finally, the committee thanks its able staff: Deborah Stine, who managed the project, developed background for Chapter 4, and ran the focus groups on the guide; Alan Anderson, science writer, whose help in drafting this guide was invaluable; Tamae Maeda Wong, who developed the background text for Chapter 2 and the profiles; Norman Grossblatt, who edited the report; and Patrick Sevcik, who provided administrative support.

Suggested Citation:"FRONT MATTER." Institute of Medicine, National Academy of Sciences, and National Academy of Engineering. 1996. Careers in Science and Engineering: A Student Planning Guide to Grad School and Beyond. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/5129.
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A Note on Using this Guide

One theme of this guide is that those studying science and engineering need more information about planning careers than is readily available to them. You need to know more about resources, about what your predecessors have done, and about how to match your own skills and personality to a given career.

In addition to the regular text, this guide offers a variety of learning tools: a series of brief profiles of scientists and engineers, some hypothetical scenarios that illustrate challenges that you might encounter in making decisions about your educational or professional life, and end-of-chapter action points that should be reviewed periodically as you move through the guide.

In the profiles, you might notice that we do not emphasize ''traditional" careers—those of scientists and engineers who follow the trajectory of their early work in research positions at universities, industrial laboratories, or government laboratories. One example of a traditional track is the scientist who joins and remains with a single university as

Suggested Citation:"FRONT MATTER." Institute of Medicine, National Academy of Sciences, and National Academy of Engineering. 1996. Careers in Science and Engineering: A Student Planning Guide to Grad School and Beyond. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/5129.
×

an instructor, assistant professor, associate professor, and professor. In fact, only a minority of scientists and engineers follow such paths. Most of the profiles are designed to illustrate the many ways in which scientists and engineers seize new opportunities that shift their careers onto new and unexpected paths. Few of the professionals who are profiled knew during graduate school what they would be doing today. They share a degree of flexibility, breadth, and social skills that allowed them to take advantage of new opportunities.

The scenarios present common dilemmas encountered by graduate students at different stages of their careers. Each dilemma is followed by questions that can serve as the basis of informal discussion or individual pondering. Further discussion of each issue is offered in Appendix A.

Those tools, and the guide itself, are designed for use in many different settings, including

  • Undergraduate or graduate courses in science and engineering.
  • University or other career-counseling offices.
  • Job fairs and conventions.
  • Student discussion or support groups.
  • Professional-society meetings.
  • University orientation sessions.
  • Faculty adviser-student meetings.
  • Information interviews.

A useful format in any of these situations is a panel discussion involving several researchers who are at different stages of their careers—for example, an undergraduate, a graduate student, a postdoctoral fellow, a junior faculty member, and a senior faculty member. In addition, repre-

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Suggested Citation:"FRONT MATTER." Institute of Medicine, National Academy of Sciences, and National Academy of Engineering. 1996. Careers in Science and Engineering: A Student Planning Guide to Grad School and Beyond. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/5129.
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sentatives of industry, business, or government can add perspective for students who might have little understanding of nonacademic careers.

Most important, we hope to stimulate discussion of a topic that receives insufficient attention. It is our hope that all those who teach, advise, and employ scientists and engineers will become more aware of their responsibilities in guiding students. When young scientists and engineers make good choices about their careers, they contribute more to a society increasingly dependent on their education and skills.

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Suggested Citation:"FRONT MATTER." Institute of Medicine, National Academy of Sciences, and National Academy of Engineering. 1996. Careers in Science and Engineering: A Student Planning Guide to Grad School and Beyond. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/5129.
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Suggested Citation:"FRONT MATTER." Institute of Medicine, National Academy of Sciences, and National Academy of Engineering. 1996. Careers in Science and Engineering: A Student Planning Guide to Grad School and Beyond. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/5129.
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As science and technology advance, the needs of employers change, and these changes continually reshape the job market for scientists and engineers. Such shifts present challenges for students as they struggle to make well-informed education and career choices. Careers in Science and Engineering offers guidance to students on planning careers--particularly careers in nonacademic settings--and acquiring the education necessary to attain career goals. This booklet is designed for graduate science and engineering students currently in or soon to graduate from a university, as well as undergraduates in their third or fourth year of study who are deciding whether or not to pursue graduate education. The content has been reviewed by a number of student focus groups and an advisory committee that included students and representatives of several disciplinary societies. Careers in Science and Engineering offers advice on not only surviving but also enjoying a science- or engineering-related education and career-- how to find out about possible careers to pursue, choose a graduate school, select a research project, work with advisers, balance breadth against specialization, obtain funding, evaluate postdoctoral appointments, build skills, and more. Throughout, Careers in Science and Engineering lists resources and suggests people to interview in order to gather the information and insights needed to make good education and career choices. The booklet also offers profiles of science and engineering professionals in a variety of careers. Careers in Science and Engineering will be important to undergraduate and graduate students who have decided to pursue a career in science and engineering or related areas. It will also be of interest to faculty, counselors, and education administrators.

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