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America's Ph.D bust


kaijura

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Recently, the Atlantic ran a couple of articles describing the ongoing conundrum of the PhD market and how employment opportunities are falling short, especially from the STEM field perspectives:

 

http://www.theatlantic.com/business/archive/2013/02/the-phd-bust-americas-awful-market-for-young-scientists-in-7-charts/273339/

http://www.theatlantic.com/business/archive/2013/02/the-phd-bust-pt-ii-how-bad-is-the-job-market-for-young-american-born-scientists/273377/

 

What are your opinions about this issue, do you currently have or are going through a PhD and feeling the same way?

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The Atlantic data is showing how the employment situation is at graduation, which doesn't really reflect the job situation for PhDs. Some people may be lucky enough to actually have work lined up right after graduation, but 30% needing a couple of months to find a job doesn't mean the job isn't there, especially since a lot of that depends on how soon a person starts looking for work and whether they start well before graduation or not.

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I've been hearing so much mixed information about this.  Most people seem to be in the camp of "the job market is horrible, 30-40% of PhDs are unemployed" and then there's a smaller pocket of people who are overly optimistic about it.  I only have a small anecdotal pool to go from around here, but it doesn't seem that my colleagues are finding problems getting jobs.

 

However, I do think not having a job lined up at graduation is a bigger problem for PhDs than it is for other fields.  Unlike other fields, you often can't just take a "couple of months to find a job," given that the academic market usually moves along with the school year.  Particularly for PhDs in fields where there aren't a lot of industry options, not having a job lined up by graduation means that it could be a full year before you are fully employed again.  In the meantime, maybe you are adjuncting or, if you're lucky, you find a last minute VAP slot.

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From what I've seen, a lot of people don't start looking nearly early enough. 

 

The best recommendations I've heard are that you should start looking two years before you gradaute, and putting out feelers, and start seriously reaching out at least a year before you graduate. 

 

As mentioned, hiring happens (if you're staying in academia) on yearly cycles. Not only that, but openings only pop up, generally, when someone retires. And that's often something you know a few years out, or can predict. Putting feelers out a few years early gets you a sense for places that might have an opening in the right time-frame for you. 

 

Also, as you get more specialized (PhD) there are fewer available jobs- you can't really just go work anywhere. More specialized jobs mean it takes longer to get things set up, there are more rounds of interviews, etc. 

 

But I'd also hope that most people coming out of a PhD aren't planning on having a job right away. In STEM fields, you get a flexible post-doc until you can find a job, or adjunct, or a combination of the above. 

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We don't seem to have a problem with people finding jobs in my field (mostly TT but some post-docs). The two fifth years in my specific discipline just did well on the job market, so I expect (hope?) that I'll be in the same position four years from now. :)

 

Eigen's suggestions are good. I would add also that it's good to start building relationships with people in your field. For example, I got to know a post-doc this year who just accepted a TT position--I'll keep in touch with her, meet up at future conferences, etc. Part of the job search is making connections with people early on in your grad school career.

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I really love the positive replies to this post that the PhD job market is not so bad!  In one of the PhD programs I got accepted to, there was a report that 23/24 of graduates in 2012 were able to obtain a position with a great median salary (and that last person was put as currently searching, but hey they may have found a job now).  I have read really negative articles about PhD's not finding job opportunities, so it is great hearing positive news from you guys.  With a lot of hard work and preparation beforehand it should be possible!  

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