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Posted In: Quotas for PhD students?

Nature has devoted a large section of its latest issue to “The future of the PhD”, see  Mark Taylor, chair of the department of religion at Columbia goes as far as saying: “…in many fields, it (the PhD system) creates only a cruel fantasy of future employment that promotes the self-interest of faculty members at the expense of students”.

More and more having a PhD is not a guarantee to find a great job or a job at all and a postdoc position pays horribly. It is also a fact that there are way more PhDs trained than jobs in academia… so, what’s the solution?

Do we need to be stricter on the number of PhD students that get trained? Or should PhDs just leave academia to go to the private sector? Is there a market for us in the private sector?

I left academia after finishing my PhD, not necessarily because the system was broken, but because it didn’t work for me personally. I did find it challenging to get a job outside academia when I first looked for one, it’s hard to prove you can do more than lab work when that’s what you’ve been doing and it was hard to adjust as well as I wasn’t used to non lab work, tricky. I would be very interested in reading your thoughts and perspectives on that.

Happy weekend!



Posted by: alleslie, 13 May 2011 3:51 am

From my perspective in the UK, i think that part of the problem is a lack of information at the start. Most people i speak to, myself included, started their phds with great enthusiasm but no real idea of what they wanted to do afterwards and even what their options were, other some vague idea that they could either stay in academia or join industry (no one who says this has ever been able to tell me what that actually entails!). It is not until you reach the later stages that you start to think "what on earth comes next?". Consequently, i think alot of poeple then jump at the first postdoc opportunity they get and pretty often end up having a fairly poor experience, with many leaving science after a few years. Maybe these realizations can only come with hindsight, but i can't help thinking that if, even before the start, there was a proper frank discussion about what was going to happen at the end of a phd and regular emphasis on managing the transition things would be better. Fewer, people signing up phds with the naive expectation that it was the golden ticket to a job and fewer unhappy people clogging up postdoc positions when they ultimate;ly will leave academia.