Fewer Ph.D.s find jobs

There is an annual census of individuals who recently received Ph.D. degrees that point to a trend that is interesting in light of numerous claims that the U.S. doesn't educate enough high-level technologists. The Survey of Earned Doctorates is sponsored by NASA, the National Endowment for the Humanities, the National Institutes of Health, National Science Foundation (NSF), the U.S. Dept. of Agriculture, and the U.S. Dept. of Education.

The most recent results show that, among other things, the proportion of Ph.D. recipients with definite commitments for employment or postdoctoral (postdoc) study fell in every broad science and engineering field in 2011, and this was the second consecutive year of decline. Moreover, the proportion of 2011 Ph.D.s who reported definite commitments for employment or postdoc study was at or near its lowest level of the past 10 years, 3 to 10% lower than the proportion of 2001 doctorate recipients reporting such commitments. The specific numbers were: engineering, 64% had some kind of commitment in hand; for physical sciences, the number was 69.3%; for life sciences, 62.5%; and for social sciences, 69.5%.

Other interesting factoids:

Doctorates in science and engineering fields accounted for 74% of all Ph.D.s awarded in 2011, up from 66% 10 years earlier.

In 2011, temporary visa holders represented the majority of doctorate recipients in engineering and over 40% of those in the physical sciences.

Women earn less than 30% of the doctorates awarded in both physical sciences and engineering, but their numbers are increasing rapidly. The number of women earning doctorates in physical sciences rose 70% from 2001 to 2011, and the number of female engineering doctorate recipients almost doubled over the decade.

The NSF put the results of the census online with interactive graphs that make the data pretty easy to understand. You can get a look here: http://www.nsf.gov/statistics/sed/digest/2011/

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