YPOV: A New Norm for the PhD Workforce?

November
,
2015

Historically, PhD students in fields such as humanities and social sciences were likely to seek a tenure-track faculty position at a research university. But, the increasing number of young professionals pursuing PhDs far outstrips the number of tenure-track faculty positions available, making an academic career the exception today rather than the rule. PhD students must pursue nontraditional careers outside of academia, or risk being unemployed or underemployed.

Contrary to popular belief, PhD students in engineering have never had to depend on academia for jobs.

According to data from the National Science Foundation’s (NSF) biennial Survey of Doctoral Recipients (SDR), in 1993, only 23% of engineering PhD graduates were pursuing careers in academia. By 2013, the standard of nonacademic careers for PhD engineers was further solidified, as only 14% of them were employed in academia, while 73% worked in industry and 9% in government.

Among chemical engineers, in 1993, 20% of the PhD workforce was employed at four-year research universities and 68% in industry. By 2013, little had changed, as 19% of PhD chemical engineers were employed at four-year research universities and 70% were employed in industry...

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