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Creating Pathways for Nontraditional Graduate Students

December 05, 2023

We hope that by sharing ways to remove barriers to entry, retention, and advancement for nontraditional students, our field will become more inclusive, equitable, and diverse.

As past and present nontraditional students, our group of authors experienced firsthand a range of hurdles in our pursuit of ocean science graduate studies. Some of us attended graduate school while working full time in our fields as a means to advance our careers. Others returned to graduate school to pursue a second career in a new field. Combining our experiences with broader demographic information (Wendler et al., 2010) led us to define nontraditional ocean science graduate students as any of the following: mid-career professionals pursuing graduate degrees for career advancement and those who are embarking on a second career, hold an undergraduate degree outside of STEM, are in their thirties or older, or are balancing school with work and/or family responsibilities. While we highlight these characteristics, we recognize that there are others who self-​identify as nontraditional, such as those facing a serious medical condition or disability. 

Second-career professionals are assets to our field. Students with backgrounds in computer science, mathematics, and philosophy bring a range of sought-after skills to their ocean science careers. Those who earned undergraduate degrees in disciplines such as English, journalism, communications, and marketing have skills that are vital to translating our science into action and incorporating it in public policy.

Woodworth-Jefcoats,P, Jahnke M, Howell EA, Kobayashi DR, Miller C, Nichols R, Onuma M 2023. Creating pathways for nontraditional graduate students. Oceanography 36(4):68-69.


Last updated by Pacific Islands Fisheries Science Center on 01/22/2024