Long-term prospects for career opportunities

Doug Jones

Welcome to all of the newly enrolled and continuing graduate and postdoctoral trainees to the start of the 2015 calendar year. For those of you who have just joined the Schulich Medicine & Dentistry family, this is a great time to get to know your fellow students, as well as the faculty and staff who are here to assist you in accomplishing your goals.

Some of you may be wondering about your long-term prospects for career opportunities. You might be asking: What is available after I finish? Will this degree/training provide me with the opportunity to increase my career choices? Is there data to suggest this has been a good decision for me?

For those of you interested in pursuing a postdoctoral fellowship, I encourage you to read the message Andrew Watson, Associate Dean, Graduate and Postdoctoral Studies, wrote for this month's issue of Current Affairs. He provides advice on ways you can set yourself apart throughout the process.

For the majority of you, however, your career will not be in academic institutions but in the vast array of expanding opportunities outside of academia. A recent extensive report from the Royal Society in the United Kingdom found that less than four per cent of PhD graduates were in the academic stream 10 years post-graduation. Science is also constantly changing. What was “hot” a decade ago does not have the same impact today.

If the specifics of your individual research topic will not be the key to success in the future, what from your training will be beneficial to your future career and how will your research project be viewed by potential employers?

Certainly you will have demonstrated your comprehensive knowledge in a particular field of study and the mastery of the skills and methods of research associated with that field. In addition, however, it is the communication and critical thinking skills that you have applied to your research project, and the problem solving that you will have demonstrated along the way, which will be in demand after your program is completed.

Your publication record will also assist in providing evidence of your critical evaluation and development of solutions for complex problems. These are essential for completing your program. Your supervisor and the Advisory Committee will be there to help you critically assess and develop these skills.

You may also ask if there is evidence to support the value of advanced degrees when looking for job satisfaction as well as potential salary. I encourage you to read Statistics Canada’s new report on the labour market for more information about this.

Another question commonly heard is whether too many are graduating with a PhD. This is certainly an issue in the United States and particularly with graduates from different programs. However, in general we haven’t yet reached that point in the biomedical fields.

So you have a great opportunity to make a difference, work in a field that you enjoy, and have potential for life-long satisfaction. I wish you all success in your programs, and remember that the Graduate & Postdoctoral Affairs Office is here to provide advice and assist you in your endeavours.


Doug L. Jones, PhD
Vice Dean, Basic Medical Sciences