Lightcast Case Study
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Advanced Degrees, Professional Development, New Possibilities

The Graduate School of Princeton University uses Lightcast Data to Help Students See New Futures

Right: Clio Hall, the administrative building of The Graduate School (photo by Danielle Aiello)

Clio Hall, the administrative building of the Graduate School  (photo by Danielle Aiello)

Graduate degrees lead to countless possibilities in the labor market.

Here's how Princeton's Graduate School helps students see them.

Over centuries, generations of students and leaders have made Princeton University one of the most accomplished and respected institutions in the world. The Graduate School occupies a unique position in the university because it reaches across a vast array of disciplines: PhD and master’s degree programs ranging from Architecture and Economics to Plasma Physics and German.

While at The Graduate School, students have access to some of the most accomplished faculty and the best academic resources possible. Yet even as the school helps students break new ground while pursuing their field of study, it also needs to prepare them for what’s next.

Though graduate education has historically prepared alumni for work in academia, Princeton discovered that roughly half of its graduate alumni pursue opportunities in other fields. The GradFUTURES program was founded in 2019 to empower graduate students to succeed across a widening array of opportunities after Princeton—and it uses Lightcast data to do so.



At The Graduate School


Opportunities Per Year

For Interdisciplinary Professional Development



Enrolled in Masters and PhD Programs
The Question

How could GradFUTURES show students how their PhD education connects to a wider range of opportunities?

Left: Graduate students in the Business Skills in Academia and Beyond Learning Cohort present a business plan for their startup, Mova, a virtual reality museum experience. They demoed the platform for Dean of the Graduate School, Rodney Priestley. (Photo by Sameer Khan, Fotobuddy)


GradFUTURES has five strategic pillars that work to deliver a coordinated and comprehensive experience to students:

    Deploying skills-based approaches to professional preparedness across all fields

    Mobilizing a campus-wide ecosystem of support for professional development

    Designing bespoke immersive and experiential learning programs

    Activating Princeton’s alumni network as mentors and champions for current students

    Prioritizing data transparency to offer clear insight into alumni outcomes, career pathways, and labor market trends

The fifth pillar—data transparency—is fundamental to helping guide graduate students understand how to prepare for success while in graduate school and as they continue their work after Princeton. Labor market data is integrated deeply into the function of GradFUTURES and supports three areas of focus: exploration, learning, and connections. The first was one of the primary motivations for creating the program itself, as job posting trends confirmed the continued decline of the academic market and revealed many new pathways and options for graduate students to apply their training in meaningful and impactful ways. 

The Answer

Seeing labor market outcomes through a program review, a custom dashboard, and access to the Analyst tool

Right: Associate Dean Eva Kubu presenting a session at the GradFUTURES Forum

Eva Kubu leads the program as Associate Dean for Graduate Student Professional Development and founding director of GradFUTURES. One of her primary goals is to help students and faculty understand the range of possibilities available throughout the entire scope of the labor market.

“If there are limited numbers of faculty opportunities, then yes, our graduate students are going to be well-prepared to compete for those limited opportunities,” Kubu said. "But future of work trends have considerably widened the aperture of opportunity for PhDs and can really broaden the impact of doctoral training beyond the tenure track. Graduate students are at the forefront of creating new knowledge and solutions to the world's greatest challenges. We’re making sure they are aware of the full range of possibilities where they can contribute their expertise in myriad ways that serve humanity."

In the summer of 2020, GradFUTURES partnered with Lightcast to identify the skills in demand for each of The Graduate School's programs.

The resulting insights formed the basis of the school’s core competencies, foundational to the graduate experience regardless of discipline. The data also allowed for a more granular analysis so that all 43 programs could see the differentiating skills their graduates need, both for their scholarly work and also to prepare them for success in the labor market.

“The Princeton programs are so unique compared to other schools, and students pick up distinguishing skills that help them differentiate themselves,” said Laurie Consoli, a Senior Account Manager at Lightcast who helps facilitate the partnership with The Graduate School.

Initially, the new focus on careers outside academia caused some concern among those familiar with education jobs and cautious about any outcome that would move students away from the more traditional pathway to the professoriate. 

Left: The annual GradFUTURES Forum professional development conference, held each spring,  is open to the broader graduate education community. (Photo by Sameer Khan, Fotobuddy)

princeton gradfutures meeting

“When we began, sharing labor market data with our graduate programs was completely new territory—and we had to be careful that we didn't appear to be steering graduate students solely towards industry careers," said Kubu. “In fact, the data is used to help inform and inspire graduate students as they make their own decisions about which pathways to choose and shape their futures. 

But here again, data proved invaluable by helping smooth those conversations. Seeing occupations through a skills lens allows for a clearer view of how graduate education connects to future outcomes. Instead of narrowing the view graduate students and faculty had of what’s possible through doctoral education, labor data expands their view of what’s possible in the labor market.

In a recent presentation to all academic department chairs and directors of graduate study, Kubu used Lightcast data to show the trends in Ph.D. skills demand (pre-pandemic through present) across all disciplines. She was able to demonstrate the growth in demand for a combination of research and communications skills—and share the importance of being able to translate complex research to a broader audience. She was also able to highlight changes in demand for skills such as teaching, management, and leadership over time.

After the initial work in the early months of GradFUTURES to identify the opportunity landscape for PhDs, the partnership between Princeton and Lightcast has expanded to include a custom dashboard that Kubu and her team use to run specific reports on outcomes for graduate programs and access to the Analyst tool, which provides economic and workforce data to connect students with great careers.

gradfutures princeton chart skill demand

“The dashboard gives a baseline view of the programs overall and related jobs, and then they can go deeper to look at specific occupations, as well—it’s specific to what The Graduate School needs,” Consoli said. “Analyst complements that by showing the full picture of the market, whether that’s big-picture or granular.”

Kubu and her team are meeting with individual departments to share graduate alumni career outcomes data and customized labor market briefings using Lightcast data from the dashboard and the Analyst tool. “It’s not just about sharing the data– it’s looking for actionable ways to apply the insights to our programming and deepening our collaboration with the departments,” said Kubu. “For example, the Anthropology department recently contacted us because they were interested in using the outcomes and labor market data as part of the department’s self-study efforts. That led to conversations about assisting with graduate alumni career panels as part of the department’s 50th anniversary celebration.”

Another example of the ways labor market data has informed their professional development programs is the launch of the GradFUTURES Business Skills in Academia and Beyond Learning Cohort. “Typically, most people associate the term ‘business’ with the private sector. However, business skills are essential to career progression in every sector –including academia. Labor market trends and feedback from Princeton graduate alumni indicate that acquiring critical business skills helps differentiate all Ph.D.s. across all fields.” Among the skills and topics addressed by the cohort are strategy development, inclusive leadership, ethical decision-making, building and assessing value, communications and storytelling, innovation, and change management. 

Kubu often refers to the “Four Cs” of what GradFUTURES accomplishes for Princeton graduate students, shaping their experience so that students develop:





Labor market data is fundamental to those goals, particularly the latter three. When students can see how the skills and competencies they acquire through their doctoral training connect to new possibilities after Princeton (whether in academia or beyond), they can see more clearly how to pursue those opportunities, and move forward with confidence.

Ultimately, Kubu envisions that the four Cs, labor market data, and the insight they enable for the entire Graduate School community will reach beyond Princeton, helping graduate programs at other institutions show students how their education can connect to their futures in ways they might not expect.

“We want to be field-leading in what we do, but we are also intent on being field-serving,” she said. “We host an annual professional development conference that's open to other graduate institutions and have been intentional about sharing the information we're learning about the labor market for PhD graduates through that event and in other ways. We hope this helps expand knowledge of the broader opportunity landscape for all graduate students."

"Graduate students are at the forefront of creating new knowledge and solutions to the world's greatest challenges. We’re making sure they are aware of the full range of possibilities where they can contribute their expertise in myriad ways that serve humanity."

Eva Kubu,

Associate Dean for Graduate Student Professional Development and founding director of GradFUTURES

Princeton University

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