Using Your Degree

As a graduate student, you may still be deciding whether to pursue an academic or non-academic career. If you are exploring non-academic options, there are multiple fields in which you can leverage your graduate study and experience.

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Academic vs. Non-academic Careers
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There are significant differences between working in the academy and in industry around roles and responsibilities, workplace culture, and career advancement. Explore the notable differences between academic and non-academic careers.

Explore academic job opportunities and consult with departmental faculty if you wish to prepare for careers in the academy.

For non-teaching roles in a university setting that require an advanced or terminal degree, consider: Library Affairs, Research Administration, Diversity, Equity and Inclusion, Student Affairs, Academic Affairs, and Institutional Research and Assessment.

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3 Ways to Choose Your Non-Academic Career
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1. Learn about your options

Be informed about your options. The following resources can help you learn about different non-academic career paths.

  • Identify 2-3 industries of interest using our Career Specific Resource pages
  • Find graduates of your program and where they work:
    • Create a free LinkedIn account, if you haven’t already, and log in
    • Go to the George Mason University LinkedIn page
    • Type the name of your degree in the "search" box
  • Search career possibilities based on what you already do well using My Skills My Future
  • Create a free account with ImaginePhD to explore career opportunities in the humanities and social sciences
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2. Ask others who have been there

Getting information and advice from a variety of individuals is a great way to help you make decisions about your career direction. If you’re nervous about reaching out to people, start with members of the Mason community. Download this helpful list of possible questions and people to ask.

Use your career connections through Mason to find fellow graduate students and alumni in fields of study and careers of interest to you.

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3. Test your interests

Trying things out is one of the most effective ways to decide if you truly like something, are good at it, and want to pursue it. Here are some ways to test your academic and career interests:

  • Micro-internships: short-term, project-based experiences often completed remotely
  • Internships: applied learning that occurs in a professional work setting (in-person or remotely)
  • Volunteering: low-commitment, flexible way to explore mission-driven organizations or causes
  • Professional organizations: connections to job boards, employers, mentors, and professional development opportunities like trainings, certifications, and conferences (sometimes at low or no cost to students).
  • Employment: full- or part-time jobs to get actual work experience in a field you are considering
  • Research : collaborations with faculty and industry partners to use your learning to solve real problems

For support with choosing a non-academic career, schedule an appointment.

For recommendations about experiences related to your career interests, visit our Career Specific Resource pages.