Doctoral Student Career Planning

A Guide for PhD Programs and Faculty Members in English and Other Modern Languages

This guide is a product of Connected Academics, an MLA project receiving generous support from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation to develop students’ capacities to bring the expertise they acquire in advanced humanistic study to a wide range of fulfilling, secure, and well-compensated careers.

Many faculty members have expressed both a desire to help their doctoral students explore a broad range of rewarding careers inside and outside the academy and an uncertainty about the best way to begin. This guide gives faculty members, especially those in administrative roles, clear strategies and simple resources their programs can use to prepare students for a variety of careers. It is designed to help them advise their students more effectively, start conversations with colleagues and administrators about career pathways for PhDs, and foster a departmental culture that supports the career ambitions and outcomes of all their students. Below you will find available for download the full-length tool kit, a one-page tip sheet, individual modules, and Connected Academics resources referenced in the tool kit.

We envision that this document will evolve over time. We are eager to hear from faculty members and students about how the guide is being used in departments, including what you find most useful and what you think could be improved. If you have comments, questions, or concerns about the Doctoral Student Career Planning Guide, please contact us at

Last Updated: June 2018.

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The MLA thanks the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation for generously supporting doctoral student career education, exploration, and planning through the Connected Academics grant.

The association also thanks the many people who have contributed to this project, which was a collaborative effort between the MLA and faculty members, students, and staff members at a variety of institutions.

David Theo Goldberg and Kelly Anne Brown at the University of California Humanities Research Institute hosted the first Connected Academics Institute in September 2016. Faculty members, students, and staff members at the institute provided ideas and suggestions that were eventually integrated into the tool kit.

A number of faculty members and students at other institutions also contributed insightful and valuable feedback on early drafts of the tool kit. Directors of graduate studies and department chairs met with MLA staff members at the 2016 and 2017 MLA conventions, and those discussions inform this tool kit at every level. In addition, faculty members and graduate students at the following institutions participated in tool kit focus groups in winter 2017: University of Connecticut; University of California, Berkeley; University of California, Santa Cruz; and Stanford University.

Finally, directors of graduate studies, department chairs, career services staff members, and university administrators from the New York City region attended a one-day conference, hosted by the MLA, in March 2017. They reviewed a late draft of the tool kit and participated in a lively discussion of its implementation in university departments.