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Question of the month- PhD internships

Posted by , on 28 September 2015

There is an increased awareness that only a small fraction of PhD students will ultimately secure a tenure-track position in academia. This has led to a discussion on whether graduate schools have a responsibility to help PhD students prepare for a career outside academia, either by providing training on a broader range of transferable skills, or simply by increasing awareness of the various career paths available.

One of the ways PhD programmes have started to support students in this way is by providing access to internship opportunities during their PhDs. A recent article in Nature Jobs discussed the efforts in this direction in the US, where internship options are available for PhD students and postdocs. In the UK, 3 month internships are now part of the compulsory training of PhD students in certain graduate programs (most notably the PIPS scheme, part of the BBSRC PhD studentships). So this month we are asking:


Are PhD internships a valuable exposure to careers outside academia or a harmful distraction from research?


Share your thoughts by leaving a comment below! You can comment anonymously if you prefer. We are also collating answers on social media via this Storify. And if you have any ideas for future questions please drop us an email!

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Categories: Discussion, Education, Lab Life

One thought on “Question of the month- PhD internships”

  1. The answer to the question depends on the point of view.
    PhD internships ARE a valuable exposure to careers outside academia TO PhD candidates.
    They also ARE harmful distraction from research, most likely to the PhD advisor (how much would depend on the size of the research group) and possibly as well for the PhD student. The latter is not necessarily an intrinsic property of the internship but the result of having increasingly demanding requirements to publish anything, pretty much anywhere, and only three years to complete a PhD project. There is a clear disconnect there.
    It would be convenient that ROs and PhD advisors had their records tracked regarding how their PhD candidates fare in the job market, same as it happens with undergraduate students. I think this would level a bit the risk to the research project coming from a 3-month halt.


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