What are the postgraduation trends?
A graduate's first position after earning the doctoral degree may reflect broad economic conditions and can shape later career opportunities and choices. Over the longer term, the early career patterns of doctorate recipients may influence the decisions of future generations of students considering careers as scientists, engineers, researchers, and scholars.
Definite commitments at doctorate award, by science and engineering fields of study: 1991–2011
Doctorate Recipients from U.S. Universities: 2011. Related detailed data: tables 42, 43.
Job market: S&E
At any given time, the job market will be better for new doctorate recipients in some fields than in others, although all fields tend to follow a similar cyclical pattern that generally reflects overall economic trends.
The proportion of doctorate recipients with definite commitments for employment or postdoctoral (postdoc) study fell in every broad science and engineering (S&E) field in 2011, the second consecutive year of decline. In every broad S&E field, the proportion of 2011 doctorate recipients who reported definite commitments for employment or postdoc study was at or near its lowest level of the past 10 years, 3 to 10 percentage points lower than the proportion of 2001 doctorate recipients reporting such commitments.
Definite commitments at doctorate award, by non-science and engineering fields of study: 1991–2011
Doctorate Recipients from U.S. Universities 2011. Related detailed data: tables 42, 43.
Job market: Non-S&E
The proportion of doctorate recipients with definite commitments for employment or postdoc study fell in every broad non-S&E field of study in 2011, the third consecutive year of decline in each of those fields. The proportion of doctorate recipients in humanities reporting definite commitments reached its lowest point since 1997; the proportions of doctorate recipients in education and other non-S&E fields with definite commitments were lower than they have been at any point in the past 2 decades. The low point for each broad non-S&E field was 7 to 10 percentage points below that field's peak rate of definite commitments achieved during the 20-year period.
Postdoc rate, by field of study: 1991–2011
First postgraduate position
Historically, postdoc positions have been a customary part of the early career paths of doctorate recipients in the life sciences and physical sciences; such positions are becoming increasingly prevalent in engineering and social sciences fields as well. In 2011, more than two-thirds of doctoral graduates in life sciences took postdoc positions immediately after graduation, and over half of all S&E doctorate recipients did so. The proportion of engineering doctorate recipients accepting postdoc positions has increased sharply, climbing from 19% in 2001 to 41% in 2011.
Median basic annual salary of doctorate recipients with definite commitments in the United States, by position type and field of study: 2011
In 2011 doctorate recipients who had definite commitments in the United States in the coming year reported annual salaries that varied according to their field of study and the type of position to which they committed.
Doctorate recipients who take postdoc positions report similar salaries regardless of their field of study. In all broad fields, postdoc salaries are lower than salaries reported by doctorate recipients entering non-postdoc employment in industry and in academe. Academic salaries lag behind industry salaries in all broad fields except humanities; the disparity is particularly striking in the physical sciences, where industry salaries are nearly twice as large as academic salaries. The two fields with the highest academic salaries, other non-S&E fields and engineering, also rank highly in terms of industry salary.
Stay rate of temporary visa holders with definite U.S. commitments, by science and engineering fields of doctoral study: 1991–2011
Postgraduation location: S&E
Over the past 20 years, temporary visa holders earning doctorates in S&E fields have been increasingly likely to stay in the United States immediately following graduation, a measure referred to as the "stay rate."
The stay rate for S&E doctorate recipients dipped slightly in the 2 years following September 11, 2001, climbed again, and then declined since 2008 for doctorate recipients in all broad S&E fields of study. Stay rates are highest in fields where temporary visa holders are most prevalent: engineering, physical sciences, and life sciences.
Stay rate of temporary visa holders with definite U.S. commitments, by non-science and engineering fields of doctoral study: 1991–2011
Postgraduation location: Non-S&E
The stay rate for non-S&E doctorate recipients climbed from 2001 to 2008 but dropped sharply since then, particularly among doctorate recipients in education and other non-S&E fields. Over the past decade, the stay rates for all non-S&E fields were substantially lower than the stay rates for all S&E fields except social sciences.