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Too many Ph.D.s, too few jobs ...


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20 replies to this topic

Poll: Too many Ph.D.s, too few jobs ... (68 member(s) have cast votes)

PDST: Post Doctoral Study Trauma?

  1. What was I thinking?! (18 votes [26.47%])

    Percentage of vote: 26.47%

  2. Could've been worse. (21 votes [30.88%])

    Percentage of vote: 30.88%

  3. No regrets! (29 votes [42.65%])

    Percentage of vote: 42.65%

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#1 waddle

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Posted 05 December 2010 - 03:07 AM

Found an interesting article on one Douglas Prasher [link]. Poor guy, looks like he had a pretty bad falling-out with luck. What a waste of talent, going from characterizing GFP to driving a car for a living.

Are there any postdocs/post-docs on this forum? If so, do any of you regret attending graduate school?

Edited by waddle, 05 December 2010 - 03:09 AM.

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#2 anonacademic

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Posted 05 December 2010 - 09:42 PM

Found an interesting article on one Douglas Prasher [link]. Poor guy, looks like he had a pretty bad falling-out with luck. What a waste of talent, going from characterizing GFP to driving a car for a living.

Are there any postdocs/post-docs on this forum? If so, do any of you regret attending graduate school?


I'm at the beginning of my graduate career, so I can't speak to this from personal experience. Just the same, being in the humanities, I have heard more than my fair share of doom and gloom around job prospects for those of us foolish enough to pursue work in English, languages, History, etc. However, the link you posted was the first I had heard of this problem impacting the hard sciences. I suddenly feel as though the prejudices surrounding my field have withered in the face of a more global academic crisis. Thanks for sharing.
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#3 starmaker

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Posted 06 December 2010 - 09:07 PM

From the article:

"Yet, when you ask graduate students and postdoctoral scholars what their individual experiences are, a science career is a very tough road with low pay and few career prospects."

I can't speak for any other field. But right now, I am job-hunting for computer science research jobs at the sub-PhD level. And I see loads of jobs for CS PhDs (heck, I've even applied to - and been granted interviews for - a few, in the hope that the rest of my app is strong enough for them to overlook my lack of doctorate). And they aren't low-paying, either.

Heck, the fact that I've gotten interviews for a couple of these jobs, despite not even having finished my master's, suggests to me that there's not a huge pool of people applying for them.

If I didn't think the PhD was going to open up more job opportunities at higher levels for me, I wouldn't bother trying to get into a program.

This article is way too focused on faculty positions, given that it's talking about sci/eng. Many research scientists/engineers are not in academia. There's national labs, DoD/DHS/DOT labs, FFRDCs, private government contractors, the big corporate labs (e.g. IBM Research, Microsoft Research), non-profit research foundations (e.g. Fraunhofer), cutting-edge startups, and normal private industry R&D. None of these are academia, and all of them have doctorate-level research positions in sci/eng.
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#4 waddle

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Posted 07 December 2010 - 12:51 AM

This article is way too focused on faculty positions, given that it's talking about sci/eng. Many research scientists/engineers are not in academia. There's national labs, DoD/DHS/DOT labs, FFRDCs, private government contractors, the big corporate labs (e.g. IBM Research, Microsoft Research), non-profit research foundations (e.g. Fraunhofer), cutting-edge startups, and normal private industry R&D. None of these are academia, and all of them have doctorate-level research positions in sci/eng.

My impression is that a Ph.D. in engineering/CS is 'worth' much more than a Ph.D. in, say, high energy physics or immunology. I know you're speaking from the point of view of a CS student--and I agree, seems like there are a lot of opportunities in that field--but in other fields, e.g. biology (especially ecology), physics, things aren't so great.

I know a few postdocs in biomedical science who are struggling to get by on ~$40k / year. I know in particular of one who was finally able to land a job at a cosmetics company doing toxicology work, something that paid twice as much as the postdoc position at a top-10 medical school she left (the toxicology work is very different from her academic specialty--cell biology). Apparently, this was a very tough job search, since industry is hesitant to hire postdocs (they've been in academia too long), but it's kind of a catch-22: upon nearing completion of the Ph.D. most grad students look for postdocs (or are encouraged to do so), but as soon as one begins a postdoc, they can't easily get out of academia (and can't really move up in the academic food chain--except if (miracle of miracles) they get hired as junior faculty).

Also, given the current economic situation, it's pretty hard to find research jobs in industry, even in big pharma--I heard through the pipeline that Pfizer laid off more people recently than Amgen employs.:o
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#5 cherylfoster

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Posted 29 December 2010 - 07:56 PM

I am agree with your thoughts. There are so many phd students are completed them studies, and many studying phd right now. But here is not many recruitment and jobs are. But i think you should never got impatient. You should try for it. If you lost your patient. This could be negative effect on your career.
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#6 statsguy

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Posted 12 January 2011 - 05:47 AM

From the article:

"Yet, when you ask graduate students and postdoctoral scholars what their individual experiences are, a science career is a very tough road with low pay and few career prospects."

I can't speak for any other field. But right now, I am job-hunting for computer science research jobs at the sub-PhD level. And I see loads of jobs for CS PhDs (heck, I've even applied to - and been granted interviews for - a few, in the hope that the rest of my app is strong enough for them to overlook my lack of doctorate). And they aren't low-paying, either.

Heck, the fact that I've gotten interviews for a couple of these jobs, despite not even having finished my master's, suggests to me that there's not a huge pool of people applying for them.

If I didn't think the PhD was going to open up more job opportunities at higher levels for me, I wouldn't bother trying to get into a program.

This article is way too focused on faculty positions, given that it's talking about sci/eng. Many research scientists/engineers are not in academia. There's national labs, DoD/DHS/DOT labs, FFRDCs, private government contractors, the big corporate labs (e.g. IBM Research, Microsoft Research), non-profit research foundations (e.g. Fraunhofer), cutting-edge startups, and normal private industry R&D. None of these are academia, and all of them have doctorate-level research positions in sci/eng.


I think this is field-specific. I will finish my PhD in Statistics this Spring and there are currently TONS of industry positions available (with starting salaries ranging from 90-120K/yr). We've had graduates in the past few years go to Google, Microsoft, Pfizer, Citibank, etc... even all the international students with immigration related issues are almost always able to find employers willing to sponsor them.
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#7 phoenix245

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Posted 14 March 2011 - 09:38 PM

There definitely seems to be a field bias. Too bad I'm in the wrong pile. I just came across this article which concerns the biosciences - http://www.nature.co...ll/471007a.html
Engineering and CS PhD's seem to have an easier life, that's for sure.
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#8 Eigen

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Posted 14 March 2011 - 10:16 PM

There definitely seems to be a field bias. Too bad I'm in the wrong pile. I just came across this article which concerns the biosciences - http://www.nature.co...ll/471007a.html
Engineering and CS PhD's seem to have an easier life, that's for sure.


I wouldn't worry about yourself too much in Chemical Biology.

I was laughing with some friends (from a number of departments) the other day that even though it might be really difficult to get a good academic position, that at least I could comfort myself with the huge piles of money I'd get from going into industry.
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#9 phoenix245

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Posted 14 March 2011 - 10:28 PM

I wouldn't worry about yourself too much in Chemical Biology.

I was laughing with some friends (from a number of departments) the other day that even though it might be really difficult to get a good academic position, that at least I could comfort myself with the huge piles of money I'd get from going into industry.


Maybe, but what part of industry are you thinking of? Because big pharma is letting more people go than they are hiring and the whole system needs rebuilding. Chemical technology companies are looking for more engineers than they need chemists, biotech companies are often short-lived with limited job security, oil companies like Shell expect you to have some geology/petrochemical knowledge as far as I know...it's not an easy pick!
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#10 Eigen

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Posted 14 March 2011 - 10:33 PM

Most biotech companies are short lived, but don't necessarily have bad "job security" per se.... It's just how they operate. They work until you solve a problem, sell the company, and often the same or very similar core group of researchers will spin off another company.

Big Pharma is letting people go, but it's mostly in the traditional therapeutic areas, less so in the biological therapeutic areas.

Then there are also all of the consulting firms that are willing to hire PhD scientists in almost any field to act as investment advisors, etc.

I have yet to know anyone in molecular biology, chemistry, biochemistry that's had trouble finding a decent position.

I will add that a lot of it is building connections with industry as you're working your way through school- either local (if you live in the right places) through regional/local professional organizations, or at conferences, etc.

Edited by Eigen, 14 March 2011 - 10:34 PM.

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#11 queller

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Posted 15 March 2011 - 12:28 AM

Potentially Off Topic: But this made me remember a grand PHDComic on the same topic. I just hope I don't regret my future plans of graduate study later.

Posted Image


Edited by queller, 15 March 2011 - 12:29 AM.

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#12 phoenix245

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Posted 15 March 2011 - 06:43 PM

Haha, I love PHD comics.
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#13 myself

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Posted 18 March 2011 - 05:24 PM

I have a PhD in Mechanical Engineering from a Canadian University currently working as a postdoc.

I love research and university atmosphere, however, it seems that with a PhD NOT from famous canadian schools, I'll have a hard time geting a faculty position in Canada. Here, the doors for faculty job applications are open to all nations, but, in my opinion, Canadian schools are not very top internationally. What I mean is it is hard to copemete with people from around the globe applying for Canadain faculty positions while you have graduated from a not-very-famous Canadain school. So what happen is PhD graduates, that I know, end up working in Canadian industries.

The other thing I saw was the strength of NETWORKING. The word "networking" is a beautiful shield hiding the sad fact that if you know someone, you'll get the job, and if not, you'll have a hard time. I've seen MANY people who knew others and get hired for jobs in university and industries. As a researcher I chose to do research obviously, and not to dress up and go from this place to that place and admire people without any good reason.

Having said all the above, I am willing to do another postdoc. or even two and strengthen my weaknesses to increase my chance of getting a faculty position, although meanwhile I'll keep an eye out for exciting industrial jobs.
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#14 Watmeworry

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Posted 19 March 2011 - 08:55 PM

There seems to be a duel-edged sword to this type of thought, the other side of the blade is the reduction of places in colleges for PH.d graduates.
My belief system is somewhat shattered. I did all the right things, achieved the grades, made all the right noises, and yet I will not be allowed,or I'm prohibited from fulfilling my academic potential. It looks as though I will probably not get into a PH.d program. I have already made my own way in the world, I'm aware of the competitive nature of reality, but at some point there must be a concern with the impact that this intellectual cap will have on the quality of thought in this country. I'm suggesting that aside from the fiscal concern of work after college, the failure to educate our brightest to maximum capacity is remarkably short sighted.
Anyone see where I'm coming from with this?
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#15 Dante311

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Posted 09 April 2011 - 06:34 AM

One of the many reasons why I dropped from my PhD program and defended my MS and ran... for now. It's a good read I assure you. Check it out!

http://www.cs.unc.ed...uma/hitch4.html
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#16 Joshua07

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Posted 26 April 2012 - 02:52 AM

Yes, there's a lot of PH.D graduate there but when it comes to job even the smartest of them can't find a job. Basically, PATIENCE is very important in finding a job related to your field, you just need to stand out so employers notice and hires you. Be patient, find a job not job finds you.
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#17 tocs1

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Posted 30 May 2012 - 05:18 AM

One of the many reasons why I dropped from my PhD program and defended my MS and ran... for now. It's a good read I assure you. Check it out!

http://www.cs.unc.ed...uma/hitch4.html


I'm just curious, what about this that made it one of the reasons you ran?
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#18 Endre Friedmann

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Posted 02 June 2012 - 04:47 PM

For humanities PhDs seeking academic employment, read Marc Bousquet at:

http://www.theminnes..._bousquet.shtml
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#19 Jess C

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Posted 19 July 2012 - 02:52 AM

This is very helpful.
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#20 1Q84

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Posted 01 August 2012 - 01:41 AM

For humanities PhDs seeking academic employment, read Marc Bousquet at:

http://www.theminnes..._bousquet.shtml


Okay this took me a few days to read through, a chunk at a time, but what an amazing interview.

I feel like this should be pinned everywhere, at the top of every forum.

Edited by ponponpon, 01 August 2012 - 01:44 AM.

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