Enhancing Graduate and Postdoctoral Education To Create a Sustainable Biomedical Workforce

Hum Gene Ther. 2016 Nov;27(11):871-879. doi: 10.1089/hum.2016.154.


PhD-trained biomedical scientists are moving into an increasingly diverse variety of careers within the sciences. However, graduate and postdoctoral training programs have historically focused on academic career preparation, and have not sufficiently prepared trainees for transitioning into other scientific careers. Advocates for science have raised the concern that the collective disregard of the broader career-development needs for predoctoral and postdoctoral trainees could drive talent away from science in upcoming generations. A shift is occurring, wherein universities are increasingly investing in centralized career development programs to address this need. In this Perspective, I reflect on the movement that brought biomedical PhD career development to the spotlight in recent years, and how this movement has influenced both the academic biomedical community and the field of career development. I offer recommendations for universities looking to establish or strengthen their career development programs, including recommendations for how to develop a campus culture that values career development as part of pre- and postdoctoral training. I also suggest steps that faculty might take to facilitate the career development of their mentees, regardless of the mentee's career aspirations. Finally, I reflect on recent national efforts to incentivize innovation, evaluation, and research in the field of biomedical PhD career development, and propose actions that the scientific community can take to support biomedical career development further as a scholarly discipline. These investments will enable new approaches to be rigorously tested and efficiently disseminated to support this rapidly growing field. Ultimately, strengthening biomedical career development will be essential for attracting the best talent to science and helping them efficiently move into careers that will sustain our nation's scientific enterprise.

Keywords: career development; graduate education; postdoctoral training; professional development; workforce.

MeSH terms

  • Biological Science Disciplines / education*
  • Biomedical Research*
  • Career Choice*
  • Education, Graduate / standards*
  • Education, Graduate / statistics & numerical data
  • Education, Graduate / trends
  • Humans
  • Mentors
  • Professional Competence*
  • Research Personnel / education*
  • Workforce