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Don’t count them out: PhD skills development and careers in industry

Radomir Ray Mitic (Council of Graduate Schools, Washington, District of Columbia, USA)
Hironao Okahana (Council of Graduate Schools, Washington, District of Columbia, USA)

Studies in Graduate and Postdoctoral Education

ISSN: 2398-4686

Article publication date: 17 May 2021

Issue publication date: 2 August 2021




The purpose of this study is to identify what skills gained during PhD study are linked with preparation and differences between industry and academic positions.


Using student-level data from nearly 2,400 early career PhD alumni from 50 US PhD granting institutions, this study uses a generalized ordered logit model with partial proportional odds to test the main and conditional effects of 14 areas of skill development on perceptions of career preparation.


This study contributes empirical evidence to show that research skills and communicating with non-technical audiences are positively linked with job preparation.

Practical implications

The combination of sophisticated research and noncognitive skills promotes the idea of a well-rounded PhD – a highly skilled and versatile researcher that can interact in both academic and industry settings – as a goal of doctoral education. The knowledge gained from this study will assist scholars and graduate educators, including faculty advisors, program directors, graduate deans, graduate education professionals and career development professionals to reconceptualize professional preparation for work in industry.

Social implications

For-profit businesses, particularly start-up companies, are vital for economic development and many require PhD-level employees across research and management roles. Developing PhDs with the appropriate skills for industry will better align higher education and economic interests.


The wide scope of doctoral institutions allows for a quantitative approach not appropriate for single-institution case studies of doctoral career pathways research.



Research Funding: This work was supported by The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation under Grant number 31600612 and the National Science Foundation Grant number 1661272.

Disclosure Statement: The authors report no conflict of interest.


Mitic, R.R. and Okahana, H. (2021), "Don’t count them out: PhD skills development and careers in industry", Studies in Graduate and Postdoctoral Education, Vol. 12 No. 2, pp. 206-229.



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