More PhDs but fewer job commitments


The production of science and engineering (S&E) Ph.D.s in the United States has reached a record high, according to the 2014 annual report on the Survey of Earned Doctorates, which the National Science Foundation issued 31 March. (An interactive version is also available.) The 40,588 S&E doctorates awarded in 2014 represent a 47% increase over the 27,680 awarded a decade earlier. Despite this growth, the report notes that “the proportion of 2014 doctorate recipients who reported definite commitments for employment or a postdoc position was at or near the lowest level of the past 15 years.”

The data also show that 63.8% of the physical scientists, 57.9% of the life scientists, and 57.0% of the engineers landed post-graduation jobs. Of those with definite plans for a position in the United States, 65.9% of the life scientists, 47.5% of the physical scientists, and 33.3% of the engineers were headed to postdocs. Each of these figures represents a drop from 2010, the peak year of funding from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, the so-called stimulus package following the 2008 economic collapse. Of those with jobs other than postdocs, 14.9% of the engineers, 29.2% of the physical scientists, and 46.7% of the life scientists reported they’d be working in academe, though the nature of their work was not indicated.

Postdocs, unsurprisingly, got the lowest salaries, ranging from a median of $40,000 in life sciences to $49,000 in physical sciences. Other, unspecified “employment in academe” paid better, ranging from a $57,000 median for physical scientists to $75,000 for engineers. The top earners among the new Ph.D.s were those working in industry, with physical scientists at $103,500, followed by engineers at $100,000 and life scientists at $87,000.

Many other intriguing facts await in the survey’s data. You can read the full report here.

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