Tuesday, 4 June 2013

PhDs and the Job Market

3 more months and I will be officially done with my Master's research, assuming everything goes smoothly. I am sure that there are quite a good number of other people that will be graduating near September too. Of course, graduating means that you need to get a job. This lead me to the following article - "The Real Science Crisis: Bleak Prospects for Young Researchers".

This article heavily focuses on PhD getting a tenure-track professor position. In short, they showed compelling evidences that it is harder for PhD candidates to get professor position (at least in the US). Two of the important signs that they showed are given as follows:
  1. In physics, 70% of the PhD graduates go for postdoctoral position in 2007 compared to 43% in 2000.
  2. Tenured and tenured-track positions in biomedicine haven't increased over the past 2 decade but the number of doctorate granted has doubled.
In fact, from my personal experience, I believe most of the departments face the above problem too. This means that it is getting harder for PhD graduates to get academe jobs. The article further gives some stories of students who spent time doing postdoc but not getting academe jobs as they hoped. Indeed, from what I have observed in my graduate studies, competition to get a professor position is extremely competitive. From what I have heard, a single assistant professor position at University of Toronto would have roughly 200 applicants. Just imagine the chances you will get an interview.

This brings up the fact about the future of PhD candidates (which was also stated in the article) - majority of science doctorate no longer become professors. As graduate students (or even potential ones), we have to recognize this is the fact and we have to change the way we improve ourselves. Don't solely focus on your research. Explore other career alternatives and find out what skills they required. There is no better time during your graduate studies to do some serious self-improvements. Of course, if you can publish a lot, then you probably don't need to worry about this.

To conclude such a trend might be troubling for some grad students, who are inspired to be professors. But, when I look at it as a whole, it might not be that bad for society. The reason is the more competitive the environment is, the better quality of future professors are. Better professors can teach better and they can produce better research for the society. So, it is best for us, grad students, to know our own capabilities and aim for what we see as reasonable prospective.

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