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Subject: Re: grads. jobs & fisheries
From: Steve Gutreuter <[log in to unmask]>
Reply-To:Academic forum on fisheries ecology and related topics <[log in to unmask]>
Date:Fri, 11 Apr 1997 10:34:15 -0500

text/plain (94 lines)

"Richard G. Dudley" <[log in to unmask]> wrote:

> One, relatively small, factor leading to the apparant oversupply of
> fisheries professionals is the tendency to 'use' graduate student labor
> to carry out research programs.  This, of course, is good for those
> seeking an assistantship and cheaper for those using research funds.
> Nevertheless, the other effects are fewer jobs (those assistantships
> could be technicians) and more holders of graduate degrees.

Richard raises an extremely important point that all students should
give serious consideration.  One should consider long-range career
goals and recognize that although this practice benefits many people
while they are students, it ultimately becomes a liability to the
career hopes of many.  Students would do well to clearly identify
their own self-interests, and equally clearly identify the self-
interests of their academic institutions.  Where those interests
match, there is good basis for trust and mutual benefit.  Where those
interests conflict, be _very_ careful!

Gary Grossman raised the point that those who choose the right
academic institutions and major professors, and who perform at the
very top, tend to do well and get decent jobs.  That is and always
has been true.  It is also too trivial to be helpful to the many.

Aldo is also correct though that, where demand is low and supply is
high, _many_very_bright_people_ still end up under-employed and
othewise suffer the consequences of their choices.  In the US, we
have many youth who believe they can become wealthy, famous
professional atheletes, despite a job market that employs only
a miniscule fraction of those who try.  For Michael Jordan, the
pursuit was worth the risk.  For the vast majority, it is clearly not.
Still, many secondary school coaches either encourage or neglect to
discourage their student-atheletes to put their atheletic ambitions
before academic or vocational pursuits that have far better odds.
Why?  Doing so tends to serve the coaches' career interests.  IMHO,
ecology and fishery science are not so different.  Caveat emptor!

IMHO, we are individually responsible for our own choices and
actions.  When we take risks, we win some and loose others.  We should
always remember that those wins and losses are real.  There are real
consequences, and real people either benefit or suffer.  With massive
shifts in the economy, _any_ of us can be affected at _any_ time.
We are not exempted from the consquences of risks we take merely
because we _believe_ they will not befall us.

One area that has not been adequately addressed in this thread is that
job security ultimately depends on ones knowledge, skills and ability.
A person who has those in areas that are in demand will be
able to find a decent job.  Maybe it won't be the job to which one
originally aspired, but it should be a decent job.  So, another
strategy (beyond those offered by Gary Grossman) is to develop
supplemental (back-up) skills in some areas that are in high
demand.  Rats are good generalists and they persist under variable
conditions.  This strategy has worked well for me, and for many
others I know.

If there are benefits to the above strategy, there are also risks.
Generally it is not sufficient to take 1-2 courses and call
that a supplemental skill.  Doing it right probably means earning
degrees in more than one discipline.  That is a difficult challenge,
particularly if one pursues two degrees simultaneously.  Therefore
there is an increased risk of failing to complete the training.  A
second risk is that one tends to become, to some degree, a "jack of
all trades but master of none."  Anyone considering this strategy
should be cognizant of both risks.

The above strategy can help land a decent job in ecology or fishery
science if the supplemental discipline in in demand within those
fields.  However if that fails, one still can find gainful,
rewarding employment in the other specialty.  Further, I know
several people who ended up working in their once-secondary
discipline, and who were ultimately happier for it.  As graduate
students, I think we all have some tendency to pursue our studies
with such singular devotion that we too easily loose site of the
many other options in life.  Why do we so easily accept as
axiomatic that our original career choice is best for us?  In
reality, there is great uncertainty in that choice.  Versatility,
adaptability and resilience are very important traits.

I realize noe of the above is of much use or comfort to those who
recently completed their education and are struggling to find a
decent job.  Hopefully it can help those who have not finished their
training.  And perhaps some who thought they had finished their training
have not.

| Steve Gutreuter, Ph.D.              Upper Mississippi Science Center |
|                                               U.S. Geological Survey |
| TEL: (608) 781-6222                             2630 Fanta Reed Road |
| FAX: (608) 783-6066                     La Crosse, WI 54603-1223 USA |
"Science may be described as the art of systematic over-simplification."
                                                           - Karl Popper

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