Ph.D. Job Outcomes in STEM vs. Humanities

Re: The Atlantic‘s article on recent STEM Ph.D.s

You think this—immediate Ph.D. outcomes (in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) of 37% getting jobs, 28% receiving postdoctoral fellowships, and 35% having nothing—is bad?! The outcomes for people right out of completing Ph.D.s in the humanities is around 10% getting jobs related to the field (including 3% non-tenure-track and 3% part-time), 5% on postdocs, 20% in other jobs (part- or full-time and unrelated to the field), and 65% having nothing. The science people are complaining about postdocs now being necessary for more than a year or two. They should try to imagine a bunch of fields where there almost aren’t any!

It takes a long time for things to sort themselves out in certain areas of academia—many years, in fact, for a group of humanities Ph.D.s to approach the immediate outcomes for a group of STEM Ph.D.s. For example, my research on one particular department of musicology shows that for two decades’ worth of Ph.D.s (1991-2011), in the 2012-13 school year 32% of them are in tenure-track or tenured positions, 18% are lecturers or adjunct instructors (many part-time) or visiting assistant professors, 11% are performers/studio-instructors/conductors, 4% work in libraries or as university admin people, 4% have post-docs, 3% work as IT folks in music software or instructional design, and 1% each work as a freelance political journalist, a visual artist (painter), a legal secretary, an airport retail manager, and a dog trainer. More tellingly (i.e., in our age of pervasive social networking), nearly one quarter (24%) of those Ph.D.s are pretty much “off the radar.”

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