Career preparation

Graduate studies can lead to many different careers

A graduate degree can lead to a range of fulfilling careers within and beyond academia. Talk to your supervisor about your career goals early on in your program, with a focus on the skills you wish to develop and the experience you’re hoping to gain through your research.


Explore career paths that interest you throughout your degree

The TRaCE McGill project explored the career outcomes of PhDs who graduated from McGill between 2008 and 2018 and showed approximately half to be employed in the academic sector (including postdoctoral research positions, tenure-track and non-tenure-track positions, and staff positions at universities, colleges, and university research centres and institutes):

  • 54% of PhD graduates were working in the academic sector
  • 23% of PhD graduates were working in tenure-track positions

Proportion of graduates in each sector of employment

Many McGill graduates interviewed through the TRaCE project shared that they wished they had learned more about non-academic careers while in graduate school. This project shares their stories and provides a window into career paths both inside and outside of academia.

    Start career planning with an Individual Development Plan (IDP)

    The myPath program includes workbooks, videos, and workshops to help you develop your IDP.


    Build your professional network

    Building a network is key to career exploration. Your supervisor can provide mentorship and support with some aspects of your professional development. They can also help you make contacts with people within their networks (e.g., researchers at other institutions, industry partners, practitioners, etc.). There is value in speaking to a range of professionals about the work they do and learning more about the options available after graduation.

    Build your network by:

    • Attending conferences
    • Joining professional associations or networks
    • Conducting informational interviews with professionals working in careers that interest you
    • Contacting recent graduates from your program about their career paths (e.g., LinkedIn)

    Use McGill’s professional development resources to prepare for the job market

    There are a wide range of resources available at McGill to help students support their professional development.

    Three places to start:

    1. Log on to PD.Education and explore the resources on one topic (e.g., Job Prep)

      PD Education
    2. Learn how to develop strong CVs or Résumés through CaPS’s resources, or attend one of their regular events

      Career Planning Service
    3. Sign up for a Skillsets workshop (training is tracked on your Co-Curricular Record)


    Choosing a career path that is right for you

    If you excel at academic research, you will likely receive encouragement (and pressure) from others to continue along an academic career path. When making career choices, it is important to determine if your employment opportunities align with your personal values.


    The TRaCE McGill narratives share 100+ stories from PhD graduates that highlight not only where PhD grads are working now, but why they made their career choices. You can browse the archive to find interviews with graduates in your faculty and interviews with graduates working in sectors you are interested in learning about.

    Below, two PhD graduates share their perspective on choosing career paths:

    “I see many discussions about pressures on students to decide between academia and not academia. But there is a lot of gray area, a lot of jobs, a lot of different ways to set up a career or contribute to research or clinical positions or industry. So I really encourage students to understand the variety of opportunities out there and to not compartmentalize into either clinical or research—it’s not a dichotomy at all, there are just too many dimensions, even within academia, in relation to research, teaching, industry partnerships, tri-council funding and collaboration…it’s really not black and white…” - Lance Rappaport, PhD in Psychology

    “It’s important to highlight that your PhD is just one facet of who you are. Your thesis is just one facet of what you do when you become a PhD. Having the opportunity to pursue other projects for your skill sets are incredibly important because that’s often what makes you hirable. Concentrate on your thesis, because the longer you take the more expensive it becomes, but give yourself the latitude to pursue other side projects and gain other skills that you can use in a career that’s not being a professor.” - Monica Granados, PhD in Biology

    Questions for reflection

    1. From your perspective, for what does a graduate degree best prepare you?
    2. What specific skills have you gained so far? What skills do you hope to gain by the time you graduate? Are these skills consistent with those required for your desired career?
    3. Is there something you could change or add into your current research that would help you gain more desired skills?
    4. Have you discussed career goals with your supervisor? To what extent does your supervisor welcome discussions about career exploration?
    5. How can your supervisor or faculty mentors help you build your network? What specifically would you ask for?

    Creative Commons Attribution Non-Commercial 4.0 International LicenseThis work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution Non-Commercial 4.0 International License.
    Graduate and Postdoctoral Studies, McGill University.

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