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job market of PhDs.


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I have absolute no interest in becoming a professor and I am still in undergrad anyways but how is the job market for them? Seems like the job outlook for PhD's is quite grim especially in the USA. Say for example I wanted to become a chemistry prof at UBC, SFU, or McGill is it quite cutthroat to get one of these positions?

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Short answer, the job market is not good.

 

There is a huge glut of PhDs and not nearly enough faculty positions for them all. Around 5% of PhDs will end up in tenured faculty positions.

 

The career path of an academic is this - hope you do your PhD in a lab or on a project that will discover something large, get on a number of high-impact papers. If you are lucky this will lead to you getting an adjunct faculty position somewhere. If you can continue to publish while teaching for quite a small salary for the next 5-10 years, and associate faculty position might open up. You might get enough funding and space to start a lab and get some grad students. If you publish enough and get enough grants for the next 5-10 years, you might get tenure. Then you are set. But at any point you can fail to get funding and then you start back at square one.

 

20 years ago the average faculty supervisor produced 2-3 PhD students in a lifetime. Now many produce 2-3 a year. Guess what? There are simply not that many more jobs for these grads, instead the university encourages professors to take on students because they represent cheap labour (in teaching undergrads).

 

So if you want to become a professor with your PhD, you are going to have a bad time, unless you are extremely good and/or lucky.

 

Which is not to say that all PhDs are underemployed and living off food stamps (though some are) - just that academia is a difficult place to stay. Many PhDs find careers in government, consulting, industry, healthcare, administration, etc. Some of these positions may or may not require the PhD, but in general, those who get PhDs are motivated and resourceful people who will find a niche.

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