Isolating Occupational Interests of Academics to Identify Metrics of Success

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Abstract

One of the main problems most of academia faces today is the classic economic problem of supply and demand, i.e. the number of PhD candidates and post-doctorates seeking permanent academic positions (supply) far exceeds the available academic positions (demand). As a result, competition has increased among aspiring graduates as they scramble to advance in academia. Other studies have examined external factors that give these graduates a competitive edge, but they fail to identify whether the candidates actually have the right interests to thrive in academia. A sample of 94 graduate students, postdoctoral fellows, and professors completed a revised version of the Holland Interest Scale (Feldman, Smart, & Ethington, 2008). This is comprised of 6 factors: Realistic (R), Investigative (I), Artistic (A), Social (S), Enterprising (E), and Conventional (C). Only graduate students and post-doctorates who intended to pursue careers in academia were considered for the study. In this study, we show that academics are high in S, A, and I interests. The frequency of the SAI trend is 56% in Group 1 (professors) and only 36% in Group 2 (PhD, post-doctorates). Of the 6 interests, the highest interest of Group 1 (professors) members was never E or C. However, highest interests of Group-2 members ranged across all 6 interests. Understanding this information would help students decide if academia is the correct career choice for them even before pursuing a doctoral degree. This conscious decision may eliminate incompatible candidates and leave a limited number of aspiring graduates to pursue academia. Thus alleviating the supply side of the problem.

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