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Graduate Education in U.S. Geography: Students’ Career Aspirations and Faculty Perspectives

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The career aspirations of U.S. graduate geography students and how these are perceived by faculty and addressed in departmental curricula and programs have important implications for sustaining and enhancing geography's position in higher education in the current period of economic, political, and social change. Recent interdisciplinary research on academic socialization identifies differences in expectations between students and faculty as an important factor affecting departmental climates, completion of graduate degrees, and assessments by graduates of their preparation for the workforce. Based on qualitative analysis of interviews conducted in five doctoral and five master's departments selected to reflect a range of programs across the United States, we found considerable difference between students’ aspirations and faculty perceptions. Approximately half the doctoral students interviewed were considering careers in academia, although many were also considering opportunities in other sectors or were uncertain of their future directions. Students in master's departments were predominantly interested in careers outside academia. Doctoral faculty and curricula tended to stress preparation for research-oriented academic careers. Master's faculty generally recognized students’ aspirations and adapted curricula to meet them, especially by the provision of internship programs. We take into consideration campus location and the gender, ethnicity, and international origins of students. The results suggest improving graduate programs and advising by aligning them with student career plans and aspirations.

Keywords: career plans; clima del departamento; department climate; educación de postgrado; educación geográfica; geographic education; graduate education; planes en la carrera; professional socialization; socialización profesional

Document Type: Research Article


Affiliations: 1: School of Geography and Development,University of Arizona, 2: Department of Geography,University of Colorado at Boulder, 3: Department of Geography and Planning,University of Toledo,

Publication date: 2012-11-01

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