April 17, 2011

What to do after graduate school

I was talking to two of my friends about what we want to do when we graduate and enter the real world. It use to be a dilemma of choice: do I want to work in academia, extension, government or industry? [Not to mention the follow-up question of "Do I have to do a post-doc to get a full-time position?"] Each option had its own pluses and minuses, and sorting through those to find the desired balance required careful consideration. Now, with the lingering recession and the government's budget battles, there really isn't a choice. The only place consistently hiring is industry.

Public universities are mired in financial squabbles with the state and federal governments, and the allocations given to agriculture-related disciplines have been declining. This means that even though a large proportion of the professors in my field will be retiring in the next few years, departments are combining faculty positions, so the number of available jobs is still low.

Extension is suffering a lack of funding from state and federal governments as well as from the public universities. Ironically, some of these same universities brag about their outreach within the state due to these extension centers! I heard on the news lately that some politicians are even arguing that extension has outlived its purpose and is no longer needed.

Government, as I'm sure you're well aware, is arguing over single-digit percentages of the country's entire debt. Not having a working budget, but anticipating a declining budget in the future, means government positions are slim pickings. Plus, veterans are given preference, even if they lack other qualifications.

My mentality is that it is better to have a job, even if it isn't exactly what I want, then to move back in with my parents while I search for my ideal/dream job. And if industry is the only group that's hiring, then that's where I'll go!