PhD market update: some progress, fewer jobs, more debt and internationalization

A new study of PhDs produced by American universities reveals some fascinating and important developments.

Let me pull out the bits which struck me as most significant.

Sciences rule A clear majority of PhDs are for science and engineering, led by the life sciences.  The humanities are minor, as are the social sciences and education.

PhDs by science and non-science

Education in particular has taken a hit (see below, too).  Here’s the IHE breakdown:

PhDs by domains

Job markets are iffy A sizable and growing proportion of newly minted PhDs can’t find work.  That’s across the disciplines.  The adjunct pools are being well fed, it seems.  Here’s the IHE tabulation:

Employment situation for new PhDs

Some racial progress The number of blacks and Latinos winning doctorates looks like it’s rising, which is a very good thing.  Not so good on native Americans.

PhDs to Latinos and blacks

Internationalization Foreign students continue to win PhDs, especially in the sciences.

In 1994, 29% of all S&E doctorates were awarded to temporary visa holders. The proportion of S&E doctorate recipients holding temporary visas increased to 41% by 2007 but has since fallen to 37% in 2014.

Over the period 2004 to 2014, 85% of the doctorates earned by temporary visa holders were in S&E fields, compared with 66% of the doctorates earned by U.S. citizens and permanent residents…

Gender Paralleling the rise of women as undergrad students and BA/BS holders, women are winning larger shares of PhDs, especially American women:

Women are becoming increasingly prevalent in each new cohort of doctorate recipients, earning a majority of all doctorates awarded to U.S. citizens and permanent residents each year since 2002 and earning one-third of all doctorates awarded to temporary visa holders over that period. Overall, women earned 46% of all doctorates in 2014. [emphases added]

Debt PhDs are expensive, and America’s decision to financialize higher education continues here, with more and more debt piling up.  Note that education doctorates tend to have the largest sums owed:

PhD debt

Family academic background Increasingly PhD holders come from families with significant academic achievement.  First-generation students make up a shrinking proportion of doctorates:

PhDs by family academic background

To sum up: nothing earthshaking here.  The STEM fields continue to grow.  American higher ed is increasingly international.  Women, blacks, and Latinos are making incremental progress.  Debt is enormous, and job prospects are iffy.

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One Response to PhD market update: some progress, fewer jobs, more debt and internationalization

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