Approaches to higher education have been evolving at an increasingly rapid pace over the past decade, and graduate education is a critical part of that evolution. In Ontario alone, the number of new programs offered at our institutions has increased dramatically since 2004, and between 1999 and 2009, the number of PhD students enrolled in Ontario universities has nearly doubled (Maldonado, Wiggers, & Arnold, 2013). Students are coming to graduate school at different stages of their lives (Wiggers, Lennon, & Frank, 2011) and, in today’s economy, many are leaving graduate schools with increased uncertainty and anxiety about their career prospects (Maldonado et al., 2013; Patton, 2012).
Whereas in the past it was considered the norm for graduate students to move on to careers in academia, recent studies have confirmed what is apparent to most casual observers: the standard path is no longer into academia. For example, a 2010 study estimated that about 50 per cent of US PhD graduates now take positions outside of academia (Wendler, Bridgeman, Cline, Millett, Rock, Bell, & McAllister, 2010), and those who end up in academia are less likely to hold full-time tenure-stream positions. From 1975 to 2009, the proportion of full-time tenured and tenure-track faculty positions decreased as a proportion of the total number of instructional staff at US universities from approximately 45 to 24 per cent (AAUC), with part-time faculty positions comprising the majority of instructional positions (41%) by 2009. Within the Canadian context, current estimates suggest that less than 25 per cent of PhD students will end up in full-time tenure-stream research and teaching positions (Charbonneau, 2011; Tamburri, 2010).