Assessing the Ph.D. job market
by Elka Jones
reg O’Malley got a taste of the job market for Ph.D. graduates when he supervised several of them after earning his bachelor’s degree. “It was incredible to me that they had gone through so many years of rigorous training,” says O’Malley of his subordinates at his postbaccalaureate publishing job, “only to be working under someone who’d barely finished his undergrad work.” Still, the experience failed to deter him from pursuing a graduate degree of his own: O’Malley currently is enrolled in his second year of the history Ph.D. program at Johns Hopkins University.
For O’Malley and thousands of others, the desire for a doctorate outweighs concern about the job market that awaits after graduation. Most Ph.D. candidates are willing to dedicate themselves to intensive research and study because they enjoy the subject matter.
Statistics also show other, more tangible payoffs for Ph.D. recipients when they enter the labor force. Unemployment rates are consistently lower and earnings are significantly higher for people with a Ph.D. degree than they are for people with lower levels of educational attainment. As chart 1 shows, doctoral degree holders in 2001 had an unemployment rate of slightly more than 1 percent and median annual earnings of $66,000—considerably
Elka Jones is an economist in the Office of Occupational Statistics and Employment Projections, BLS, (202) 691-5719.
22 Occupational Outlook Quarterly
Chart 1 better than the 3.7-percent unemployment rate and $30,300 median earnings of the population aged 25 and older. This article explores some challenges that Ph.D. candidates face, from earning the degree to seeking employment. The first section briefly describes what a Ph.D. degree is and what it entails for those who seek one. Following a section discussing the supply of Ph.D. graduates in the labor force, the article tracks the demand for them... [continues]
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