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Got the Skills

The professional skills graduate students learn while pursuing a PhD are helpful not only in research careers, but also in other career paths, Science Careers reports. However, it also says that some key skills are also often overlooked during training.

A study appearing in PLOS One in September from University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill researchers surveyed more than 8,000 people with science PhDs to ask them whether they acquired 15 specific skills during training and whether those skills were important in their current careers. These skills included data analysis, oral communication, and the ability to manage other people.

The UNC team found that PhD training typically prepares students for both research intensive and non-research intensive careers. Being able to interpret information, analyze data, and solve problems are important skills across career types, as Science Careers notes. However, the UNC team found that some skills — such as time management, the ability to work on a team, and the ability to manage others — were not as emphasized during PhD training.

Science Careers notes, though, that the importance of some skills varies by career type, as managing others may be more important for tenure-track professors than, for instance, consultants. It also has a tool that visualizes the results, showing how well PhD training may prepare someone for a career in various fields.

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