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Can I skip the "career goal" question in my SOP?


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The career goal question is so tricky. It's very hard to do well. Is it possible to skip the career goal question? I worry a tenuous statement would ruin the overall tone of my statement of purpose. :(

BTW - the departmental guidance on SOP reads:

While information on your past work is important, it is most relevant in explaining how it led you to focus on the problems that currently interest you. The admissions committee is primarily concerned with learning about your current and future research interests.

the application prompt wants something more comprehensive:

- describe your reasons for applying to the proposed program

- your preparation for this field of study and research interests

- future career plans

- and other aspects of your background and interests which may aid the admissions committee in evaluating your aptitude and motivation for graduate study.

Edited by peanuttheanthro
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The career goal question is so tricky. It's very hard to do well. Is it possible to skip the career goal question? I worry a tenuous statement would ruin the overall tone of my statement of purpose. :(

BTW - the prompt reads:

While information on your past work is important, it is most relevant in explaining how it led you to focus on the problems that currently interest you. The admissions committee is primarily concerned with learning about your current and future research interests.

To me research interests and career goals sound different. I'm unsure about both, and made that somewhat clear, but then again my field might feel differently about such issues. I said I would be open to academic or government work in the future, and have a general idea of urban ecology for research interests. What I made sure to do is propose multiple questions to show that I can think about potential problems and research topics for future work.

So that may not be helpful. But my overall advice is that even if you're unsure, you can be honest without sounding wishy-washy. If you explain what ideas you have (broadly, and maybe give a few specific topic examples) it'll show that you are at least thinking of your options in the field.

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This is another one of those things that I think really depends on your field. I'm applying for an English PhD and the only real utility of that degree is in becoming a professor. It just doesn't have any value in anything else--at least, you don't try to go into marketing after getting your PhD, unless you only wanted to do it for the vanity of it.

Other fields though, I imagine some in science probably are more applicable in the job market outside of academia. Do you want to do lab research somewhere, do you want to be a professor, do you want to work for a major corporation? If you're in one of those fields, you're probably going to need to address the question more than someone in a field where there really aren't any options.

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One idea behind this prompt is to show that you have goals that involve more than just being a graduate student. Programs want to maximize their chances of having successful students... you need to demonstrate that you've considered your options after getting your graduate degree, since a lot of people apply just to avoid real life for a while, and those are the sorts who will burn out when they realize they have to work three times harder than in a typical job.

So... I'd think skipping that question would be a bad idea. You don't need to be certain of what you want to do, but you need to make it clear that you've thought carefully about your application.

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Dear all - after reading your comments I wrote a paragraph on my career goal. The thing is that I am really insecured about it. Anyone mind reading my career goal paragraph (or the whole SOP) and give me some feedback? Please let me know and I'll PM you. Thanks so much in advance!

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