A recent article about the number of PhDs who end up as college profs. Pretty sobering.
I dunno, is it? The percentage of science PhDs who go on to TT positions has been at about 15 to 20% for years. The number has certainly dipped a bit since 2007, but most people don't get the exact job they want these days—why should PhDs be any different?
My own PhD is from the early 90's. So, I am actually relieved to see that the percentages for social science are not much different than they were back then, suggesting that my students should, as I did, set very high standards for their work and know that they need to be in the top quarter of new PhDs when they come out. I think the issue is not so much these percentages though but the sheer number of people they are referring to. Are we awarding a lot more PhDs these days than we used to? I have no idea, but it feels like there are more people these days who have struggled to get jobs. When I got my first position, I did know a few people who did not get jobs that year. But clearly there were many more people who did not get faculty positions and who I knew nothing about. Are there more people not getting jobs these days or do we simply know more about those folks because we have access to more information (like this wiki)? I don't know…
Many undergrads and even grad students don't have any clue about the realities of the job market for academics and especially in psych most think that they will get their PhD and stay in academia. During a recent grad student recruitment weekend at an R1 school prospectives were asked 'what are you going to do after you get out of grad school?' and they all said 'stay in academia.' When asked to elaborate more, they all said 'my plan B is a liberal arts college job,' and when told that even those are scarce these days, they were completely shocked. This was asked in one-on-one interviews. A postdoc job search event at another R1 school showed that almost all of the 60+ attendees would only consider R1 jobs. So, the article I posted is pretty sobering — our students may all desire academic positions, but the real job market doesn't have such a demand. And I think it is much better to prep our students for this reality early on — help them plan for plan B, develop skills that would transfer etc. Way too many folks realize mid way (if not later!) through grad school what it actually means to be an academic so I propose we need to educate our junior colleagues a bit more about that :)
There is another trend that that chart might not be capturing. How many of the "jobs" in that chart are post-docs? If you follow the one of the links in the post, you will see a chart that shows that the percentage of social science grads with professor jobs at graduation has declined quite a bit, but has been partially offset by a rise in post-docs. What happens to those post-docs? Do they all find the TT dream job at an R1? How many leave academia after languishing on the market for a few years?
@anothergal I agree that newly admitted grad students should know that their odds of landing a TT position are low, but those numbers are not hard to come by. PhDs and journalists have been bellyaching all over the internet about the poor state of the academic job market for years now. (For instance, "The Disposable Academic", The Economist from 2010.) And I completely disagree with the idea that all PhDs want academic jobs. I know loads of PhDs (in the sciences, mind you) who got their degrees to get jobs in the private sector. And then they got jobs in the private sector. One social psychologist friend turned down a TT position at a good school last year for a government job. Given that many of us have clinical training and thus have another employment option, I would argue that a PhD in psychology might weather the current economy better than other doctorates, especially those in the social sciences and humanities.
I think the key numbers that are missing or not reported are how many people applying for TT jobs are not getting them. That's it. Yes, a similar number are staying in academia after graduation, but there are a growing number of adjunct, visiting, postdoc, research faculty, etc. positions out there that would be counted as "academic jobs." Staying in those for 5+ years is not the same as getting a "college prof job."
There are other recent references and articles about the odds of getting a TT job. The journal Science, Chronicle of Higher ED, and other sources have spoken to this issue as well. Using some what different sources, the numbers come out quite similar.
The % of PhDs with tenure track jobs WITHIN 6 YEARS of graduating has gone down from about half in 1985 to about 28% in 2007, before the recession hit!! At this same time, the percent with adjunct jobs has gone up, and the percent still in a post-doc after 6 years of graduating shot up since 1985; its now something like 40%! These jobs pay as well as what many of my friends started earning right out of college, and in some cases right out of high school, but they seldom provide benifits and provide very little long term job security.
At the same time, the number of new PhDs being produced each year has gone up quite a bit since the 1980's, according the same articles by the Economist and the Science article on this matter.
Other sources and articles speak to adjunct pay; the most comprehensive list adjunct salary rates in the U.S. notes that the average pay is $2300 per class. I know lots of people that scrap by in poverty adjunct teaching courses at 2 or 3 nearby schools just to pay the rent and food.
What is worse, is that they seldom get any benefits and these people deferred working and earning for years of grad school just to make less than the average high school janitor! Is this what our degrees aught to be worth? At least the High school janitor would usually get benefits!
2/3 of all college courses now are taught by adjuncts; most of whom are PhD's with no job security, no benefits, and who make less than high school janitors! The TT job is being outsource to a cheap but well educated and large labor force who trade on the idea that if they just eek it out long enough, they may get a chance for the only job they were ever really trained for and every really taught to think about; The tenure track academic job. We've been promised something that for most will never materialize!
This info has been cited in the Chronicle of Higher Ed and by a webpage put together by adjuncts across America. Our field is doing many psychology grad students a huge disservice and Universities and research faculty who want the cheap, bright, and dedicated labor, turn a blind eye or flat out lie and mislead to their advantage and the detriment of our field! How long can this process be sustained?
@PhD=Poverty So I guess your decision to do a PhD was a bad choice, huh?
deciding to get a a PhD may well have been the worst choice of my life, and most of the people I know from grad school are also quite poor off. Many of us looked down on people who just dropped out of the program in grad school, but now I see that they were perhaps the wise ones; they sunk less costs into a deadened career move before switching gears, and now many of them are doing better than myself and my cohort who graduated.
What makes it perhaps worse, is that I did all the things I was suppose to do to land a good academic job. I graduated, got lots of pubs (18 peer-reviewed, all 1st or 2nd author in top tier journals for my sub-field), I taught 6 classes and got excellent evals on all of them, I did a 3-year post-doc and am now in the middle of my second post-doc. I am adjunct teaching here and there to keep up teaching experiences as well.
I've been on a dozen on site interviews over the years and nearly 3 dozen phone interviews. Besides the years of grad school and debt, I certainly have very very little to show for all the hard work! That is why I started trying to read up on our discipline and figure what the heck was wrong with our field!!
I think it is long past time in my case to start looking for something else. And If I knew that all the effort for grad school and beyond would make no lick of difference, I would have never started down such a doomed path.
Getting a PhD, going to school for so long and working so hard all for an academic job when there is a 70%+ chance of never reaching that outcome, hardly seems worth it for anybody!!!