Tuesday, September 4, 2012

What Daniel Lametti dismissed about scientist unemployment

Daniel Lametti is a budding science writer (and a neuroscience graduate student at McGill); he has written an essay for Slate entitled "Is a Science Ph.D. a Waste of Time?" Here's a link to the essay -- please read it. A summary might be as follows:
  • Media accounts (like Brian Vastag's article in The Washington Post) are alarmist; scientist unemployment is not that bad,
  • Not all scientists want to be academics. 
  • Ph.D. scientist unemployment is low.
    • Ph.D. chemist unemployment is not that bad, really!
  • Opportunity costs don't matter, because grad school is fun and you get a doctorate! 
Let's start with my critique of the one NSF number that he relies upon:
A science Ph.D. is still an attractive credential outside of the university. According to a 2008 survey by the NSF (a summary is available here), there were about 662,600 work-ready science Ph.D.s in the United States, and only 11,400 of those people were unemployed. That’s an unemployment rate of 1.7 percent.
The number that Mr. Lametti relies upon is not without fault. It is old; based on numbers from October 2008, it likely does not take into account the increase in unemployment that was seen in early 2009 and beyond. It is too broad: by using this number, Lametti cannot distinguish between biology Ph.D. holders (1.9% unemployment) and physical science Ph.D. holders (2.4%) or computer and information science Ph.D. holder (an enviable 1.1% unemployment rate.) Finally, it is too academic: both professors (from the mightiest tenure-track holder to the poorest adjunct) and postdoctoral fellows would be counted as employed in NSF's Survey of Doctorate Recipients. 

[To be sure, I don't think anyone knows the actual, current unemployment rate of STEM Ph.D.s, a group of people that is so encompassing as to be useless. These fields are not interchangeable, which is one of the reasons that I don't go for broad-brush statements. But I digress.] 

What is more frustrating is his subsequent dismissal of chemist unemployment:
Of course, some of those jobs have disappeared since the NSF survey was taken. The pharmaceutical industry, the Washington Post reported, has cut scores of chemists. Even so, the American Chemical Society told me the unemployment rate among its Ph.D. members is 3.4 percent this year, down from 3.9 percent last year. During these rough economic times, the unemployment rate of scientists in one of the hardest hit fields is less than half the national average. Why? Because scientists learn more in graduate school than how to peer into microscopes and pour chemicals ever so carefully from one Erlenmeyer flask to another. As one biologist told me, the statistics and computer programming she learned during her degree can be applied just about anywhere. More generally, scientists know how to solve complex problems, and finishing a doctoral dissertation shows that you can get things done.
Sigh. Where to start? (Pardon me, readers, if I repeat myself.)

The pharmaceutical industry has laid off 300,000 employees since 2000; a number better compared to the battle of Antietam as opposed to Lametti's pedestrian "some." Of those, chemists are a significant portion; "scores" should be more like "thousands", with at least an estimated 16,000 chemist jobs disappearing since 1998. Lametti seems to have missed the sub-headline of the article he linked to: "unemployment rate of 4.6% for ACS members in 2011 is highest on record" is apparently not worth mentioning to his readers. These facts apparently don't bear repeating.

Readers of this blog know that the Bureau of Labor Statistics unemployment number for chemists is 6.1%, quite a bit higher than the ACS unemployment number. (Strangely, Lametti also fails to note the accompanying number in the Brian Vastag article -- that of his young peers in chemistry, only 38% of them have managed to find full-time employment.) Of course, there are the other problems with ACS member unemployment numbers as a proxy for actual Ph.D. chemist unemployment: the response rates are low, that unemployed ACS members only have 2 years of unemployment waivers and are thus likely to drop off the member rolls, that it (once again) folds in academic chemists and postdocs.

(Oh, and that "less than half the national average" bit, where there's a link to the Bureau of Labor Statistics website? You wouldn't happen to be comparing the unemployment rate of a national labor force with less than a third college graduates against a subfield where a majority of the practitioners have a Ph.D., would you?)

But apparently there's no point in focusing on the problems with these numbers for Lametti -- apparently his anecdotes are far more compelling:
As one biologist told me, the statistics and computer programming she learned during her degree can be applied just about anywhere. More generally, scientists know how to solve complex problems, and finishing a doctoral dissertation shows that you can get things done. 
A mathematician who graduated in 2010 told me he was hired by the investment bank Goldman Sachs after a short search. Many of his colleagues, he said, have doctorates in math, physics, or computer science; his bonus can be a multiple of his salary. A biologist was offered a position as a medical writer seven days before graduating last year. A chemist got a job at a battery company two years ago after a short stint as a postdoctoral researcher, doubling his salary.
Transferrable skills! Alternative careers! I'm less that convinced that a doctoral dissertation shows that "you can get things done" to employers overall; I'm much more convinced that it means that you've completed a project, and convinced a small group of professors that you're ready to leave. I'm also less than convinced that Ph.D. biologists want to be medical writers, that Goldman Sachs is really the example that you want to use for an article about how a science Ph.D. is worth it and that earning double your postdoc salary is anything to crow about. Finally, these anecdotes are not proof that a science Ph.D. is actually a substitute entry-level credential for whatever non-laboratory position that a new graduate might be looking for.

I find Mr. Lametti's essay very frustrating. It is suffused with youthful optimism, which is no substitute for a cold look at the facts. I am surprised at the apparent non-existence of the unemployed scientist, and that there doesn't appear to be anybody older than 35 or so in his essay. Wrestling with the damage caused by layoffs or outsourcing don't seem to be worth his time; you got your Ph.D.! Isn't that wonderful? (You should be able to find another job in a snap!) Delving deeper into the facts of scientist unemployment or finding anecdotes of those Ph.D.s who are (or have been) unemployed weren't worth it, either. What a shame.

Rather, instead, the reader is told that "science Ph.D.s are just about the last group of people the media should be worrying about." I'm not one for written indictments, but to speak for such a huge group of people with such disparate fields and varying problems smacks of ignorance, if not arrogance. 

44 comments:

  1. Thanks for laying it all out there, CJ. I was feeling guilty that I couldn't keep pace with all that optimism, but I've been looking for a steady income for a year now since graduating. I suppose the Slate article was more of a pep-talk to the author himself.

    The conclusion of the article, that PhDs are meant to produce dissertations, also seems a bit off to me. I think if the public knew what they paid me a quarter of a million dollars to produce they might call it a waste of public funds. But I thought that money was an investment in my future use to society as someone who can leverage my training productively. (See? I've still got some optimism!)

    Thanks as always for being willing to fact-check.

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  2. Not covered: that postdocs are temporary and contingent upon goverment funding; they are not a substitute for a real job, but are consistently used as a holding pattern.

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    1. Science Careers recently published a postdoc survey of 3000 postdocs globally. 10% of postdoctoral researchers are unemployed when their position ends. Personally, I have found it difficult to find academic or industrial positions after my position was unexpectedly eliminated due to funding. I am of course lucky that I am a citizen and am not forced to leave the country.

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    2. I have a Ph.D. in chemistry and I have been unemployed for almost a year now. After working for more than 10 years as a federal contractor I was laid-off because of lack of federal funding to support my position. I already have two friends that have accepted university teaching positions, one in Japan and the other in China – And this is an example of fine American scientists leaving our country because they cannot find a job here. I believe that we will continue to see more American scientists leaving our country. It seem that if I decide to stay home I will need to get a job in a restaurant, wal-Mart or home depot. In fact, about two weeks ago I went to home depot and I found that a Ph.D. in polymers was helping people on the painting counter. The reallity is that there are not enough jobs for scientists here.

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    3. Then how on Earth Indians/Chinese PhDs and Post docs ( on J-1 visa ) find science jobs in USA?
      I know there are lots of Indians, Chinese professors and scientist all of USA maybe they are supporting their own kind???

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    4. Maybe their presences drive all the American scientist abroad, how ironic!

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  3. Oh good, another shill without a PhD or job seeking experience telling me how wonderful things really are. Madeleine must be so proud. Incredible kudos to you Daniel! Incredible!

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  4. There is no doubt that PhD chemists have had a tough time in recent years. But everyone has had a tough time in recent years, even people with lots of education. Go talk to some law school grads, for instance, who are 150K in debt and facing 25% or higher unemployment.

    I spoke with the ACS about that 38% new chemistry PhD unemployment number because I too found it alarming; they told me that it didn't include postdocs and chemists not looking for work. A postdoc is a full time job that 9 times out of 10 comes with benefits; most postdocs get paid 40K/year. In this economy, many highly educated people would kill for a position like this even if it is just temporary (for instance, every freelance journalist I know).

    The actual unemployment of recent (less than 6 months out) chemistry PhDs is 9% according to the ACS. This is high, and there are lots of chemists who are underemployed, but, again, the economy is terrible and there are a lot of highly skilled people in all fields who are underemployed. There is no reason to think that this number will stay this high when/if the economy turns around. Indeed, unemployment among PhD chemists (again, according to the ACS) fell this year.

    About my "youthful optimism", generally I'm quite pessimistic. I think most scientists are. But after talking to a dozen PhDs, several of whom were chemists, they convinced me that all is not lost. Science PhDs have a long history of doing remarkably well after they graduate. This doesn't mean that finding a job is easy, or that we'll all get the job we want, but the vast majority of science PhDs end up on their feet.

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    1. ACS is untrustworthy source of employment statistics. First, they perform their survey by mail, within the ACS membership. There is a great deal of disgust and anger with ACS in the chemical community and I suspect a disproportionate number of unemployed chemists stopped paying the ACS dues (after concluding that ACS is basically a big publishing house masquerading as a professional organization for tax-exempt purposes, paying million-a-year salaries to its top management, having a huge conflict of interest and bearing its share of responsibility for the current hopeless job situation). Second, even within ACS membership, the unemployed chemists are far more likely to throw the ACS survey form into a waste bin.

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    2. Hi, Dan:

      Thanks for replying.

      First of all, let's establish that ACS numbers are only as good as their response rate (which is less than awesome) and the correlation of ACS members with all Ph.D. chemists (which is entirely unknown). They're the numbers that we have, so we use them, but they are to be taken with a huge grain of salt. The ACS Starting Salary Survey that you're quoting has a response rate of 17%. The response rate for the 2012 ACS Salary Survey is yet unknown, but it does not usually go above 50%.

      With that in mind, I don't think that you can assert that things are getting better for Ph.D. chemists. I think it's safe to say that it could be better, or it could be worse. We just don't really know.

      If your argument is, "chemists are doing about the same as other highly skilled professions", it's hard to say. I don't really think that's the case: http://chemjobber.blogspot.com/2012/07/ms-madeleine-jacobs-sympathetic-but.html

      Again, I believe that postdocs are (to steal a term) an "inferior good" (in that they're something that people rarely choose, if they have another option), especially considering the time/effort put into qualifying for them.

      I think those previous PhD chemists that you may have talked to may have been highly-educated, highly-skilled people during a time of general economic growth. I'm not sure that's the case anymore, which is why I would suggest a note of caution to any broad recommendation that graduate school in science is "worth it." As always, I think it depends.

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    3. I used the ACS data because Brian Vastag used it prominently—and, I believe, incorrectly—in his piece. I would, of course, love to have better data.

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    4. Hi Daniel,

      As a Quebecois doing a postdoc in a biomedical research institute in the US, I can just imagine how you can be influenced by your happy friends in Montreal who thinks a Ph.D. is still fine and dandy on the job market. I would say it's typical "Passe-Partout" (the Quebec equivalent of Sesame Street, without the street and with crappier puppets) generation that thinks everything is going to be fine and that you're so special. Sorry Daniel to pop your bubble, but there are many thousands of you (and counting) on the market with the same skill-set as you and a lot of them are mighty competitive. So, you better brace yourself because the job market is going to kick your optimistic butt.

      I invite you to come to research institutes and universities in the US to see how dire the situation is for postdocs. Or send an email to the National Postdoc Association, they'll tell you how bad it is. You think 40K$/year for a postdoc sounds great, perhaps because in most cities in Canada you can get by with that amount of money. It's quite the contrary in most science hubs in the US; 40K$/yr barely pays the bills. Benefits? You got to be kidding! You mean health care? Nobody in their right mind should come here without their PI/institute covering a large majority of it.

      What is most depressing in your comment above is that you reiterate the "low expectations" vibe that I've observed from several life science postdocs (with lousy self esteem and/or predatory PI). You'd be happy with 40K$/yr? Good for you if you want to stay poor in your mid-30's, unable to afford a family, a house and save for retirement. And postdoc is temporary, so eventually, you're out of a job and replace by faster data-producing robots! For your case then, maybe you find that a Ph.D. is worth it (as well as the dozen of people you talked to). For any other self-respecting adults though, not so much. Of course, things could be worst, but it's a cultural bad habit in Quebec to compare to worst, in an effort to justify that it's ok not to be better. Don't get me wrong, a Ph.D. used to be worth it, but unless the current situation drastically improves, I would strongly discourage anyone to start one.

      Importantly, there's no hope for the future postdocs to ever receive a reasonable salary and to ever have meaningful job opportunities if we keep having the debate poisoned by naive attitudes like yours, which fail to understand the dismal reality of postdocs and the lack of job prospects for bright people with Ph.D.s. Slate and you just did a disservice to a large community of young scientists. Bravo!

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  5. I think Beryl Benderly has put together a nice critique on the Science Careers blog.

    http://blogs.sciencemag.org/sciencecareers/2012/09/is-a-science-ph.html

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  6. This is why the scientist glut will continue for a long time. Dumbass kids who don't do their research are just thrilled to have their post grad studies paid for. Who cares what jobs prospects are after you leave!

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  7. Excellent job, Mr. Lametti!

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    1. You tell him, Medellin!

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    2. All right everyone, stop being such gigantic worry warts! Think happy thoughts, happy thoughts, that's right, feel that dopamine rush. And if you are feeling really depressed hop over to my multimillion dollar beach house for a margarita and some pep talk. There, now have I convinced you that you should do science for the sheer honor of it?

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  8. This notion that PhD grads have no student loans is ridiculous! Most of us incurred them while undergrads and they were in deferment while we were grad students. Lametti's link even shows that it was only talking about student debt incurred during graduate school.

    And $100K salaries straight out of grad school? WHERE? I want to know so I can put in some applications.

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  9. I think it depends on whether you look at the numbers in relative or absolute terms. In absolute terms, science Ph.D.s are definitely better off than the average- we have lower unemployment, and even the 40k a year postdoc stipends (with benefits!) are more than a lot of people get. So it's hard to feel TOO sorry for us- you just won't see the kind of extreme poverty that happens elsewhere these days.

    On the other hand, anyone who gets a science Ph.D. is self-selected to be much smarter and harder-working than average (and generally from a more privileged family background as well). We'd be doing better than average even without the Ph.D., and the Ph.D. really doesn't seem to add much (if anything) to our employability.

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    1. As a Ph.D.-holder who came from a blue-collar household, I have to amplify what you've said. I've slowly come to realize that I will not be doing better than my parents did with a high school education and a union card.

      What's more, my peers who obtained bachelor's degrees outside of science have now "self-sorted." The smart ones are doing very well while the not-so-bright ones are having troubles. That's not true for my STEM peers who are, by and large, all in the same boat.

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  10. Anon @ 10:39 am: actually a PhD is necessary to get in the door for many of the positions advertising for an MS these days. If you want the job you have to have the credentials. If you want to advance beyond a lab tech job, you need the credentials. That's how science works.

    I've been seeing more and more part-time, no benefit jobs advertised that pretty much expect a dissertation-level of knowledge.

    I'e also been seeing that postdoc fellowships are becoming more and more competitive. Not to mention most only last 2 years. So every 2 years you get to pick up and move somewhere else, often to a new city. There's nothing wrong with a person wanting job security and that can't be had with a postdoc.

    And you do see poverty wages among adjuncts.

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  11. I don't know about unemployment figures, specifically, but there are studies for post-Ph.D. careers such as the figure in this post: 'Career paths, redux – the academic research career is the exception' http://sciblogs.co.nz/code-for-life/2010/09/22/career-paths-redux-the-academic-research-career-is-the-exception/

    (I’m aware of equivalent data for other countries.)

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  12. Re: Quebecois Anon –

    Thanks for some perspective on what a person from Canada who has actually studied in the US thinks about the Ph.D./Postdoc situation here. From Lametti’s own article, it is difficult to figure out if he’s an American studying in Montreal, or a Canadian studying in the US, or a Canadian studying in Montreal.

    Now another question that’s on my mind – why does Slate.com publish articles like this? It’s not from an established journalist (like Brian Vastag), and it’s not from an experienced scientist who has been in the US labor market for some time. It’s from a graduate student in Montreal who is commenting on the science employment patterns in the US. Does this make sense? Does Slate actually have any editors?

    Slate is doing a disservice to its readers, and a disservice to scientists of all degree levels.

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  13. As I came back from my volunteering gig (formerly a paid postdoc at a top-10 university) I overheard a green as they come 1st year chemistry grad student talking on his cell phone. The poor deluded fool actually though he'd graduate with a PhD in four years, go on to a top-1 school to postdoc for three years, and then plop down into a tenure track professorship at a major research university. The sad, sad facts are that if he's extremely unlucky he'll get his utterly unemployable, less than worthless PhD in about seven years, assuming the ever shrinking grant money pool holds out that long (thankfully not realistic). Afterwards he'll go to any lab doing anything that has a grant, any grant, where he'll get a 70% full time position that demands he be there 150% of full time--that's right, university minimums as low as they are are not the bottom. After which he'll be permanently unemployable. Today there are over a hundred qualified PhDs for each and every job out there. Nobody ever hires straight out of grad school, or out of your first (2nd, or gods help you 3rd) postdoc. If you don't have industry experience, you are not going to get hired. And why should anyone? Need an entry level PhD chemist? Hire one with 15 years of experience for 60 cents on the dollar compared to 2005 wages. Really we should be debating how many years every single university in the world should be boarded up. I say five years should do it. My fellow unemployed PhD chemist brother says not less than 10.

    As for the ACS, remember they're exclusively industry shills. As long as there is a single chemist out there making a living wage according to the ACS that means there is a critical labor shortage. They'll not be happy until all chemists are volunteers. I take that back. They'll still want 30-year veteran PhDs to muck out radioactive organomercury residues with a mouth pipette and pay for the privilege.

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  14. As a non-PhD (B.Sc. Biochem) I spent many years working for PhDs with good jobs. They are the reason the biotech/pharma is in the state it is in today. If you can't find a job it is because the industry you want to work in is not healthy. Too many PhDs!

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  15. I'm a PhD microbiologist with 32 years experience working in the UK, USA, and Canada. One of the things that has struck me the most during this time is that I've never encountered a single colleague whose offspring went into biomedical research in any way, shape, or form. However, many of their kids did go to med / vet / dental school. My own interpretation is that biomed research no longer counts as a career choice for the kids of the middle class (UK /Canada definition not US). As an undergraduate essentially all of the 32 students in my microbiology class were children of blue collar workers for whom the prospects of earning $40-60K represents a huge leap up the social ladder. Likewise, most Grad Students and Post Docs I've known hail from a similar background, especially those from Asia. Unfortunately, Asians, who are by far the largest contingent of PhD level lab jocks are increasingly returning home after their PhD, or are choosing to stay at home to obtain their Ph D. If this trend continues, there will be far less lab fodder in the near future to conduct the bench work that is the engine of North American science. May be then there will be an increase in demand for the far smaller pool of domestic students/post docs, accompanied by a major increase in their salaries and job security if current economic theory is to be believed. That said, if science is your passion then you should already know this during your undergrad years, and you should definately be considering obtaining a PhD in your chosen field.

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  16. There's a bit of irony in the author's affiliation, given that many of the biggest employers of McGill PhD graduates have closed up shop over the last two years.

    http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/montreal/story/2012/02/02/astrazeneca-layoffs-montreal-cp.html

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  17. CJ: Have you seen this? http://www.scientificamerican.com/article.cfm?id=obama-romney-science-debate

    Obama's plan is to add one million new STEM graduates for an "urgent need" while Romney's plan is to "raise visa caps for highly skilled foreign workers, offer permanent residence to foreign students graduating with advanced degrees in relevant fields...."

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    1. And there it is. Regardless of affiliation, politicians all have their heads up their ass.

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    2. That's why gridlock is good.

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    3. At this point does anyone trust either of the candidates to actually follow up on what they are saying? (That's a rhetorical question of course)

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  18. You know, I think back to when I came out with my PhD in 2000. Went for a 2yr postdoc which meant going up on a job search in 2001. I remember despairing how bad we had it then trying to do a job search immediately after 9/11 and watching position after position freeze. And yet now that I sit on the other side of the table--whatever the stats say, the anecdotal evidence suggests to me that things are much worse. I sit in a federal lab deep in "flyover" country and watch hundreds of applications pour in in just 1 week for BS technician positions that probably would've brought in a dozen or two at most 5 years ago. And then we didn't have PhD applicants desperately applying for BS-level positions; now we do--not that we would ever be allowed that hire by the HR people in the first place.

    But students like Mr. Lametti are always enthusiastic and generally naive. When I was in undergrad/grad school I took most everything ACS and my professors said about careers at face value too. After all, they are the professional organization and the experts in the field! Shouldn't they know what they are talking about?

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  19. Great idea. Go get yourself trapped in "post-doc hell." Just the way you want to live.
    The only differences between this and regular hell are:
    1. In regular hell at least you don't have to worry about heating your house.
    2. The "PIs" in both places are equally ethical. But only one has a tail.
    3. They are equally difficult to escape from.
    4. At least in regular hell you never have to risk living in Cleveland.


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  20. Only an academic or public employee would think that it is tragic to have an unemployment rate of 6.1% let alone 4.6%. Does anyone need reminding that this is no longer 2007? Private sector employees would need no reminder of this.

    It is also somewhat insulting to suggest that PHD's not working in their job of choice should not be counted as part of the employed as you seem to at the end of your second paragraph. In a world where people change careers on a regular basis are you insinuating it is a PHDs right to graduate and then get tenure or a dream research position? That would be like suggesting a graduate architect goes out into the work force and gets made partner in the firm. Life isn't like that. A young architect would likely graduate, work as an intern for a year or two doing window details or some menial task, and transfer jobs 3 or 4 times for the next 15 years before being considered senior enough to be even considered for a management or partnership position.

    If Science PHDs are worried about low unemployment compared to other professions and not getting their ream jobs without having to put in years of hard work after school like everyone else then excuse me…but I’m not too worried.

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    1. We don't need to worry about getting ream jobs. We get them in spades.

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    2. In a world where people change careers on a regular basis, a Science PhD is liability or at best a waste of time. By the way, your example is completely wrong. The architect is not changing careers, so their degree is useful.

      "That would be like suggesting a graduate architect goes out into the work force and gets made partner in the firm. Life isn't like that. A young architect would likely graduate, work as an intern for a year or two doing window details or some menial task, and transfer jobs 3 or 4 times for the next 15 years before being considered senior enough to be even considered for a management or partnership position."

      So you're not being too logical. Luckily lots of modern science doesn't seem to require that, or maybe I've just been reading too much 'Retraction Watch' today.

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    3. Damn, dude, so all those people at my job that got their Ph.Ds, they just, what, applied for them on Facebook? I didn't realize it was that easy - I thought, after all, that working through nine or ten years of school and perhaps a few more years postdocking (at probably not quite residents' hours, but close, for sure) meant that they actually had done some work.

      My bad.

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  21. LOL too funny....well there you go!

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  22. Lessons:

    1) "The plural of 'anecdote' is not 'data'."

    2) The antidote to bad data or bad interpretation is not no data, but better data (and, in this case, more data).

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  23. Yikes... this kind of pseudo-journalism is actively damaging for people who are trying to influence rational policy and business decisions. Are there too many Ph.D.s? Probably. Does that matter, probably not! IMHO a Ph.D. is a starting point, not an end point. It is really only after several to many years of practical experience that anyone with a Ph.D. can even know whether they should/should not anticipate a research career, a technical business, technical policy, product development, teaching career, etc. If you did not figure that out in graduate school, then you are either dense, or have been a willing victim of a predatory mentor. As an industry Ph.D. person, with more than 25 years of hiring and mentoring scientists and engineers, I think this is the wrong conversation to be having. Just like any other human endeavor, science and engineering careers are a brutal and long-term competition. This does not mean you have to be a jerk about it, but that is reality. Some enjoy a wonderful and meaningful path of life's work, and some have miserable and frustrating lives, beset by personal and professional problems. There are many shade of grey in between. This is ADULTHOOD. Sorry. Someone, maybe your parents, maybe a teacher, maybe your friends, should have told you. Check your twitter feed. Relative to other careers, so-called STEM paths are fairly kind, but the stats are not as good as once was, and that is for sure. I periodically mentor undergrad and graduate students. I make it a point to educate them on the realities of thier situation: 1) you are in a hiatus of essentially a publically-funded acquisition of knowledge, 2) future earnings potential are only tangentially related to your current efforts, 3) there may/may not ever be a job, anywhere in the world, that matches your thesis project, 4) your thesis supervisor is NOT a job councilor, a kind uncle or aunt, their role is to assist in your education, 5) it is EXTREMELY UNLIKELY that a top-tier business or academic institution will hire you for a permanent job that you would feel great about, or even want. The probabilities are about the same as for an excellent baseball player making it into the majors. Think about the underemployment for the nearly greats in that field (pun intended).
    So, as it was 25 years ago when I was a graduate student, the only person that can manage a career is the person with that career. A Ph.D. is NOT job training, it is education. Whoever obtains a Ph.D. has only been (hopefully) well educated, and never in history has it been the case that well educated people are warranteed to be fully employed, in the absence of other personal qualities. The subject story has been written by a person of limited experience, and very limited analytical skills, for a not terribly selective publication.

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  24. This point may have been mentioned in previous posts but a major issue with science PhDs is that people choose to do them because they want to, regardless of the prospects afterword. It is usually because they want to contribute new knowledge to a field through research. Someone on YouTube eloquently described just this idea that students choose to do a phd because they are in a sense on a quest for truth and therefore a phd should be considered a luxury item rather than a prerequisite to a career. I find this a bit disheartening but it's a valid point. It explains the disconnect between the demand for phd programs and the lack of demand for phd holders by employers.

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    1. If that is true, then:

      1. The government and universities perhaps should not be subsidizing the students by paying their tuition and paying them a stipend. Rather, if it is indeed a luxury, perhaps it is the students who should be paying. After all, they really want to do it.

      2. We (society, government) should not be telling people that "we need more scientists!" Rather, advertisements for graduate school should not mention job prospects, but focus solely on people's search for truth about the physical world.

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