Increase in number of MAs and PhDs in low -wage jobs

19 Jul Increase in number of MAs and PhDs in low -wage jobs

The Globe and Mail carried a story recently by Rachelle Younglai Low-wage earners with graduate degrees on the rise about a study by economist Jasmin Thomas that showed that between 1997 and 2014, there was a 60% increase in the proportion of MA and PhD holders in low wage jobs. The study states that “This suggests that the demand for well-paying jobs has outpaced the supply.”

I am not convinced that there is an over-supply of highly qualified and skilled individuals. There could be a number of reasons why highly qualified individuals are increasingly in low paying jobs. One possible reason is that while the postsecondary system continues to prepare graduate students with the mindset that they are heading into academic careers, the opportunities in academia are limited. Very few tenure track positions are available compared to the numbers of graduates and postdocs in the system. In the meantime, the nature of the job market has changed so much. Highly qualified and skilled individuals need to articulate what they can bring to the workplace to employers.

I look back at my own journey after my PhD. Taking an adjunct/ sessional/part-time position was not an option for me financially. At the same time being able to articulate how my education had prepared me for the different opportunities available was not easy. I found that in the job market, employment agencies do not typically cater to highly skilled and qualified individuals; Human Resource consulting firms and Executive Search firms tend to work for the employers and university career centres focus their services mainly on undergraduate students and so there is a definite gap in the services for highly qualified and skilled individuals, in terms of career planning. In order for these to change for Highly Qualified and Skilled Individuals, I believe we need to explore 2 areas where a difference can be made.

First how to incorporate career planning into graduate programming so graduate students are able to explore careers both in and outside academia before they complete their programs. The other area is how to enable a flow between careers in industry and academia and vice versa. At this time the only option open to someone looking for a career in academia is to hold on to an adjunct, sessional or part-time position, once you leave academia, it is very difficult to go back. Graduate programs have a dual role of both preparing people to continue the academic tradition but also a role to send out innovative and creative thinkers into industry and if the programs embrace that dual role graduates will embrace it as well and they will be in a better position to bring employers onboard as well.

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