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Replied by Thursby, Marie C on 08/19/2015 - 08:01
Following up Trish’s train of thought. The Georgia Tech TI:GER program was originally an NSF IGERT as was the similar Innovation Realization Lab at Purdue. Both of those programs were designed to answer the prescription of the COSEPUP study in the mid-90s calling for science and engineering PhD students to broaden their education without sacrificing the technical excellence. So the issues and needs have been around a while.   Marie C. Thursby Regents’ Professor Hal and John Smith Chair of Entrepreneurship... [Read more]  
Replied by Paula Stephan on 08/19/2015 - 07:46
In the past, I have used the Survey of Doctorate Recipients, SDR, to construct employment by sector for PhD’s 5 to 6 years after receiving their degree for the period 1973-2006. It is figure 7.3 in my book  How Economics Shapes Science.  I include it below.          Paula Stephan Professor of Economics Georgia State University Research Associate, NBER http... [Read more]  
Replied by Susan Fitzpatrick on 08/19/2015 - 04:34
Hard to change perceptual norms – they often lag reality by decades   Susan M. Fitzpatrick, Ph.D. President, James S. McDonnell Foundation Past-President, Association for Women in Science Visit JSMF forum on academic issues: SMF blog ... [Read more]  
Replied by Holly Falk-Krzesinski on 08/19/2015 - 12:44
Good point, Susan, and we’ve certainly seen that demonstrated in this communication stream!  Thankfully, Mark Regets at NSF points out to us in his note that the NSF data (since the mid-90s at least) indicates that, “There really is not a documented period where most science and engineering Ph.D.s had tenure track academic careers.”  But I am not aware of any study that shows there has ever been massive under- or unemployment of science and engineering Ph.D.s. in this same timeframe (the NIH workforce report showed the opposite, in fact).      I didn’t know about the... [Read more]  
Replied by James Holbrook on 08/19/2015 - 06:19
Yes, we definitely need to adopt something cooler -- like 'maverick'. This is an incredibly complicated issue, one that involves psychology and culture as much as economics and politics. Speaking as a long-time maverick who has (finally?) ... achieved ...? ...earned ...? landed ...? a tenure-track position, I'm of at least two minds about this discussion. Although part of me certainly feels like I've finally made it, another part of me feels like it's ridiculous to feel that way. I'm also anticipating some odd reactions from my colleagues; I have 'junior' colleagues who... [Read more]  
Replied by Christopher Hill on 08/19/2015 - 09:08
Here's an alternative career path.  As a young assistant professor of chemical engineering at Washington University in St. Louis, I had the pleasure of serving as a member of the Ph.D. oral examining committee for Charley Johnson, who studied for his MS and Ph.D. while also playing as starting quarterback for the St. Louis Cardinals football team.  He played in the NFL for fourteen highly successful years and then became a faculty member in chemical engineering at New Mexico State, from which he retired a few years ago.  See: ... [Read more]  
Replied by Norris Krueger on 08/19/2015 - 07:59
Even farther back... Frank Ryan the great Cleveland QB was a sick mathematician.   p.s. I've known some great PhDs who left to start companies... certainly not for everyone but working for such ventures is another great non-professor opportunity.     Norris   "How can I help you to grow entrepreneurs?"  Norris Krueger, Ph.D. Entrepreneurship Northwest      208.440.3747   [Read more]  
Replied by Jeff Tsao on 08/19/2015 - 14:00
Folks –   As a physical scientist, I always remember the glory days of Bell Labs: a job there was widely considered the premier job in research. One could always move later from there to the “next-best” job, at a university (as many did when Bell Labs fell apart). But the degree of productivity enabled by a research job unencumbered by teaching was phenomenal. Indeed, although for many researchers teaching is a synergistic activity, for a great many others teaching is a chore that detracts from research.   Of course, aside from teaching per se, a university... [Read more]  
Replied by Roger Pielke on 08/19/2015 - 08:30
John Urschel currently plays pro football for the Baltimore Ravens while working on a PhD in mathematics at Penn State:   I've enjoyed this conversation, thanks all. On Wednesday, August 19, 2015, Norris Krueger <> wrote: Even farther back... Frank Ryan the great Cleveland QB was a sick mathematician.... [Read more]  
Replied by Andrew Steigerwald on 08/19/2015 - 10:40
Hi All— Wanted to add my two cents in. I’m late to the party and much of this has already been said. Every few months or so I interact with current students trying to understand what opportunities exist, and I hear some form of “my professor/advisor/mentor warned me against a non-academic career path because [insert ridiculous reasoning]”. At this point I boil up with rage, steam pumping from ears and nose, and my head explodes all over the room. This is by far the most frustrating thing to hear. Please note, all of this is (a) anecdotal, (b) opinion, (c) a rant, and (d... [Read more]  
Replied by H. Russell Bernard on 08/19/2015 - 13:23
susan fitzpatrick wrote:   >> Hard to change perceptual norms – they often lag reality by decades   my field of cultural anthropology is a good example of that. for many years, the number of ph.d. graduates who go into nonacademic work has exceded the number who land tenure track jobs, but prejudice against applied work remains the norm.   i tell students that my job is to train anthropologists, not to train anthropology professors. if neither students nor professors define "job" as "tenure-track academic position," students will have no... [Read more]  
Replied by Kevin G Crowston on 08/19/2015 - 18:08
One thing that hasn’t come up in this very interesting discussion is that PhD education is often (not universally, but often) subsidized in various ways, e.g., by grants, tuition waivers from the institution, etc. It is not clear that such subsidies are justified for students who’ll be working for for-profit companies. I recall one dean asking why he was using school funds to pay for students who were planning to work on Wall Street banks when they were done. (He felt that the banks had enough money.) Of course, it’s a bit more nuanced, e.g., in many cases PhD students are basically... [Read more]  
Replied by Holly Falk-Krzesinski on 08/19/2015 - 20:30
Kevin,   I’m not aware of any graduate program (or funder for that matter) that requires its students to commit to a particular career track in exchange for financial support, and I know graduate school/program leaders certainly don’t have the ability to foretell the future to know which students go on to which careers.  Some trainees even switch between sectors throughout their careers!  As we’ve already seen from the NSF’s data, there has never been a time when the majority of trained PhDs went on to tenure-track faculty positions, so any assumption that PhD students... [Read more]  
Replied by Phillips on 08/19/2015 - 21:55
Yes, some trainees switch between sectors in the course of a career. My PhD supervisor (as more professors should) required his students to have experience in theory, in algorithms, and in industry consulting. Nonetheless, I expected to go to a faculty job. But when my prof gathered his graduating students and started dealing out jobs like a poker deck, it was "Fred, I guess you'll go with [company name]." Thus I accidentally worked in industry for 12 years. I tell the story because of the difficulty I experienced when re-entering academe in the late 1980s - despite that I had... [Read more]  
Replied by Liu, Jing on 08/20/2015 - 11:15
I'm also late to the discussion, but would like to add my two cents. 1) PhD employment data often lack detailed stratification in the faculty category.  If one is trained for and has eyes set on research, then being a professor in a teaching college or an adjunct faculty at a major research university may still be far from one's original aspiration.  I remember clearly when my cohort of postdocs were looking for jobs, a faculty position in a teaching college was also considered "an alternative career". 2) However, what is alternative is in the eyes of the beholder.  As... [Read more]  
Replied by Deborah Stine on 08/20/2015 - 12:50
Greetings — I thought give the conversation you might be interested in the data below that showed up in my American Society for Engineering Education newsletter today.   This adds in the complication of the challenges facing women in academia, as well as the degree of interest they have in academic careers vs. other occupations — primarily from a need to more directly contribute to societal goals IMHO.  Debbie       Few Female Engineers — Particularly URM Women — Join Academia  As of 2014, women accounted for 23 percent of assistant professors of... [Read more]  
Replied by Holly Falk-Krzesinski on 08/21/2015 - 09:13
  Deborah, your perspective about a desire to contribute to societal goals is a very interesting one.  It makes me wonder about what career decision tree model PhD trainees are using.  Is it 1) Want to be a Professor, Yes or No?  If No, then what other career path do you want to pursue? or 2) What are your career aspirations? Which type of career path do you think best fits those aspirations (pharma research, professoriate, teaching, IP lawyer, etc)?   Regards, Holly   [Read more]  
Replied by Kevin G Crowston on 08/21/2015 - 20:47
Actually, I once oversaw an IMLS Fellowship grant that required us to get the students receiving the Fellowships to sign a pledge to look for employment as faculty in a US school (though they didn’t have to promise to actually get a faculty job, which would be hard to guarantee). But I agree that that was an exceptional case. Also, the money was for Fellowships rather than assistantships (i.e., no work requirement), so also a bit of an exception.    Still, I can empathize with the dean wondering why he was using school funds to support students to go work on Wall Street... [Read more]  
Replied by Brendan Godfrey on 08/21/2015 - 16:38
I directed the Air Force Office of Scientific Research for several years and can state that we never made such requests of fellowship or grant recipients.  I know of no federal funding agency that did.  In general, DoD is quite happy to see PhDs working in defense industry, for instance, although that is not a requirement either.   [Read more]