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Integrating Career Development into the Core Required Curriculum

The data from our 2011 study suggested that traditional, opt-in career development offerings may not be sufficient for shifting the paradigm of graduate education toward earlier, informed career planning. I (and others) have hypothesized that this is due not only to natural human tendency to prioritize current projects over long-term planning, but also in part to an underlying academic culture that devalues career options beyond academic research and discourages participation in career development activities. To address this, we have taken a fundamentally different approach: to integrate career development directly into and across the required PhD curriculum.  This would re-set expectations and provide an educational framework to support students considering their career options early, discussing career interests openly, and taking earlier and better-informed action to prepare for their careers.

Our curricular approach at UMassChan represents a fundamental shift in how career development is structured—from one-time, opt-in workshops, to lessons that build over time as part of the required curriculum. The career planning element of the curriculum is informed by Social Cognitive Career Theory (a social sciences model for career decision-making), and we have applied evidence-based pedagogical strategies to optimize effectiveness of the lessons. Our curriculum includes elements that are, in and of themselves, innovations: career-themed learning communities and #MicroSim job simulations. We are continuing to test short- and long-term outcomes of our curricular approach.

More on our approach, integrating career development into the curriculum >
About Career Pathways Communities, our peer learning community model >
About #MicroSims, a library of extremely short job simulations to facilitate time-efficient career exploration >

Watch Dr. Fuhrmann's talk on our curricular approach, featured in the NIGMS Symposium on Catalyzing the Modernization of Graduate Education (April 11, 2016; talk begins at 4 hours, 34 minutes into symposium)

Key current and former colleagues on this work:
In the Center for Biomedical Career Development:  Catherine Schweppe, Spencer Fenn, Heather Yonutas, Sonia Hall, Morgan Thompson
In the Morningside Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences: Anthony Carruthers, Anthony Imbalzano, Mary Ellen Lane, Morgan Thompson, David Weaver, Phillip Zamore (co-PI, NIH BEST award), and multiple other faculty partners
Evaluation team (2013-2019): Avery Newton, Laura O’Dwyer, Katherine Shields

Grant support:
Burroughs Wellcome Fund (grant no. 1011612; Career Guidance for Trainees, 2013-2014)
National Institutes of Health (grant no. DP7 OD018421; BEST award, 2013-2018)

Back to overview of scholarly projects >