Jump to content

Job Prospects and Attrition


Recommended Posts

I have been accepted to two schools, both very highly regarded in my field. University A has near-perfect job placement, with alumni holding tenured or TT positions at top research universities. University B has had some big successes in placement, including in my specific area of interest, but is not as consistent as UA. However, it is my impression that UA has a higher rate of attrition than UB--more people leave with Masters degrees, or just leave. I'm weighing a lot of factors in my decision, and I actually still need to visit UA, but I was wondering how others have weighed job prospects against attrition. My current thinking is that I can still get good training at UB and get a good job at the end, but I need to hold myself accountable, take advantage of as many supplementary resources as I can, and get my research published as much as possible while in school. Just getting through the program is not enough. UA, on the other hand, seems to have such standards built in, such that getting a PhD there entails accomplishing all of those things. I'd like to think that I have the personal motivation to get this all done regardless of the university's standards for students, but who knows, I guess. At UB I would also be participating in a relatively new, NSF-funded supplementary program that would give me additional certifications that might increase my job prospects (certificate in Neurobiology of Language, additional training in experimental methodologies, additional professionalization training, increased research funding opportunities). That said, I might just be kidding myself about the real odds of me getting a job after attending UB because I love everything else about it. Anyone have any thoughts on how the rate of attrition should affect my view of the job stats?

Edited by wuglife427
Link to post
Share on other sites

Guessing which one is A and which one is B: a lot depends on who your advisor(s) will be at each program. Will you work with the ones who are responsible for the success stories at UB? If not, well, then it's a big risk. On the other hand, the concerns about UA are also important. Have you visited both schools? How did you like it there? (I am happy to continue the conversation in a PM.)

Link to post
Share on other sites

Do you have a sense of why folks leave?

 

I think grad students at different places generally fall on a bimodal distribution of happiness. Some are miserable and some are delighted. You have to determine if the miserable ones are unhappy for reasons that would also affect you. If people are leaving because the department doesn't support parents and you're a parent, that's a bad sign; if people leave after a long struggle with imposter syndrome and you also feel that, that's a bad sign; but lots of people might be leaving because of a single track or prof within the department. I think it's worth analyzing.

 

You can also consider the attrition to be useful in some way. People who would not get academic jobs leave before they commit the full time to a PhD, so the attrition actually works in their favor.

Link to post
Share on other sites

Fuzzy--my would-be major advisor at UB has had successes, including someone ending up at an Ivy recently. I also might end up being co-advised by a new addition to the faculty; he doesn't have a placement track record, but he's a bit of a hotshot with some awards under his belt. I also just found out that if I attend UB, I will receive an NSF fellowship, which I guess will look nice on a CV. I visited UB a couple of weeks ago and really loved it--the students and faculty are all great, and I think both of my prospective advisors are an excellent fit in terms of research and personality. I'm actually headed to the UA open house right now...depending on how this visit goes and whether I still feel torn afterwards, I may take you up on the PM offer. Thanks.

idiochromatic--I think it just has to do with how intense the program is...some people have said it's cutthroat, although others have contradicted that. I'm going to scope it out on my visit, because I do think I would do better work and be more successful at a place where I feel like I can go to my peers to discuss research and/or get moral support, as opposed to a place where I'm afraid of them. And that's a really good point about attrition having positive consequences--I know PhDs can make you less marketable outside of academia because you seem overqualified, so I guess it would be better to find out sooner rather than later that academia isn't in the cards. I'll keep that in mind as I make my decision.

Link to post
Share on other sites

Also how high of an attrition rate are you looking at? Compare it to the national average too, not just the other school (i.e. maybe UB has the lowest attrition rate in the country and UA has the 10th lowest, so the numbers seem higher at UA but really not that high in the grand scheme of things?). In my field, attrition is about 50% on average (specific schools might range from 30% to 60%).

 

I also agree that the "why" people leave is much much more important than the actual number of people leaving. For example, in the sciences, people often leave because they found better opportunities after 3 or 4 years (i.e. the type of job they were trying to get to with a PhD) so there's no point finishing. Or are people leaving for personal reasons (family illness, two body problem etc.)--at small departments, coincidence can cause 3-4 people to leave with personal reasons in a short period of time, resulting in a spike in attrition rates.

Link to post
Share on other sites

Create an account or sign in to comment

You need to be a member in order to leave a comment

Create an account

Sign up for a new account in our community. It's easy!

Register a new account

Sign in

Already have an account? Sign in here.

Sign In Now
×
×
  • Create New...

Important Information

By using this site, you agree to our Terms of Use and Privacy Policy.