More science doctorates, fewer post-doctorate science jobs

Comment

Credit: G. Grullón

U.S. universities awarded 12,305 Ph.D.s in life science and 9290 in physical sciences in 2013, up from 8508 and 5831, respectively in 2003, according to Doctorate Recipients from U.S. Universities: 2013, this year’s edition of the National Science Foundation’s report on U.S. recipients of doctoral degrees. The report itself isn't yet available, but the data tables can be found here.

Apparently the number of postdocs and jobs hasn’t kept pace with the increase in doctorate production: The percentages of new doctorate recipients who report that they don’t have a firm commitment for a job or postdoc appointment are also up, especially in the life sciences. In 2013, 41.5% of those in the life sciences reported no job or postdoc commitment, compared to 27.9% 10 years earlier. In the physical sciences, 34.1% reported no commitment, up from 26.4% in 2003.

Of the new Ph.D. recipients who do have definite postdegree commitments, only a minority had regular jobs to go to: 35.8% of the life scientists and 46.5% of the physical scientists; the rest were heading for postdoc positions.

Of the new Ph.D. recipients who do have definite postdegree commitments, only a minority had regular jobs to go to: 35.8% of the life scientists and 46.5% of the physical scientists; the rest were heading for postdoc positions. And those postdoc positions are not paid well: In the life sciences, the postdocs (male and female) reported a median salary of $40,000. Male life scientists with jobs expected to make $75,000, and women expected to earn $70,000 on average. In the physical sciences, postdoc pay averaged $10,000 more than the life sciences for men and $8000 more for women. Salaries for physical science jobs were higher, too (and less equitable): $94,700 for men and $79,000 for women. Male computer and information scientists expected to earn the most, averaging $100,000; women in that field expected to earn $87,000.

In all categories, industry jobs paid best. For both types of scientist, academe paid considerably less than industry, government, and nonprofits.

Women’s salaries may be lower, but they’re receiving more degrees than they used to. In 2013, women received 55.3% of the life science doctorates, up from 48.3% in 2003 and 30.9% in 1983. Women in physical sciences also gained ground, receiving 29.1% of the physical science doctorates, up from 26.5% in 2003 and 13.9% in 1983.

You can find lots more interesting—though sometimes discouraging—data, here.

Follow Science Careers

Search Jobs

Enter keywords, locations or job types to start searching for your new science career.

Top articles in Careers