PhDs - Frequently Asked Questions

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Who is eligible for the services provided by the Career Center?

Graduate Students Currently registered graduate students have access to all Career Center services including CounselingWorkshops & Career FairsLetter Service, Handshake and On-Campus Recruiting.
Graduate Students on Filing Fee If you’re on filing fee, you’re still eligible for all the services above, but to enable access you must complete the online Degree Verification registration.
Postdocs & Visiting Scholars Postdocs and Visiting Scholars registered with the campus VSPA Program are eligible for all Career Center services.
PhD Alumni Once you’ve graduated, you must purchase our Alumni Advantage membership to maintain access to Career Center services. You may still access your Letter Service file, but any requests you make will be at the higher, One-Time-Send (OTS) rates.

Where is the Career Center?

The Career Center in located at 2440 Bancroft Way across from Lower Sproul Plaza. The Main Reception area is on the 3rd floor. How to Find Us.

When should I start thinking about my post-Berkeley career?

The sooner the better. It can take a long time to prepare for your future after graduate school. Knowing early on what you will help when you are on the job market helps you take advantage of the opportunities available during your stay here at Berkeley. Start by reading As a 2nd Year Grad Student, and The Career-Savvy Graduate Student. In addition, check the schedule of upcoming events: Workshops and Presentations, Career Fairs, and Employer Info Sessions designed specifically for graduate students, PhDs, and postdocs. PhD counselors Andrew Green and Debra Behrens offer frequent programs up on-campus and most of our resources and information are on this website. If you have further questions, please contact us.

What is the Letter Service, and why should I use it?

Letters of recommendation are a critical part of the academic job search process. The Letter Service will keep your letters on file and upon request forward your letters of recommendations to academic employers.  It is a convenient way to avoid having to ask your professors to write multiple letters for different openings and to ensure that they are sent out in a timely and professional manner. Having your letters on file facilitates your academic job search if your recommenders are on sabbatical or difficult to reach.

There have been a number of recent changes in the Letter Service that have greatly increased the degree of automation and ease of use for students and PhDs on the market. Some departments provide this service for their graduate students, and in some recommenders prefer to send out individual letters in every case, so you should check with your professors to find out what they would prefer you to do. If your department does not provide this option, and you would like to learn more about the service and how to create a file, refer to the Letter Service section of this website.

There are few teaching jobs for PhD's in my field, should I continue in my graduate program? Have I wasted my years at Berkeley?

This is an extremely personal issue, and there is no simple answer.  The job market continues to be abysmal in many fields, and one can no longer assume that it "has to get better." However, it only takes one, good job offer, and you will be coming from a graduate program and university that is among the leaders in most academic disciplines.

In addition, your PhD is proof of not only your intelligence but your perseverance in completing a long and difficult program. The skills and experience you will develop as you progress towards a PhD are increasingly valued in a broad range of occupations and job settings.

If you would like to talk about the trade-offs involved, you can make an appointment to talk with one of our PhD counselors.

I am considering looking for work outside of academia, but I am afraid my advisor will "disown" me.

Your advisor should understand that teaching jobs in many fields are difficult to get or can come at great cost.  Many, but not all, do.  However, it's your life and your career, and you shouldn't allow the anticipated reaction of your chair determine your actions or lack thereof (easier said than done).  You have a wealth of skills and talents, and it can be a mistake is to be focused only on a teaching career to the point that you would take anything, anywhere and under any conditions and /or wait years for a chance to teach. 

It's a great, big world out there. Think about taking some time to explore what is best for you (and it may well be academia). There are other sources of help and information if you would rather not approach your advisor about this issue. You might want to start with the three-part workshop series Looking Beyond Academia offered periodically throughout the year. If you don't feel comfortable discussing this issue with your advisor (a common predicament), you are more than welcome to make an appointment to talk to a PhD counselor on a confidential basis.