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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, scholars, and researchers.

Definite commitments at doctorate award, by science and engineering fields of study: 1993–2013

(Percent)
NOTE: Definite commitment refers to a doctorate recipient who is either returning to predoctoral employment or has signed a contract (or otherwise made a definite commitment) for employment or a postdoc position in the coming year.
SOURCE: Doctorate Recipients from U.S. Universities: 2013. Related detailed data: tables 42, 43.

Job market: Science and engineering

At any given time, the job market will be better for new doctorate recipients in some fields of study than in others, although all fields tend to follow a similar cyclical pattern that generally reflects overall economic trends.

In every broad science and engineering (S&E) field, the proportion of 2013 doctorate recipients who reported definite commitments for employment or postdoctoral (postdoc) study was at or near the lowest level of the past 15 years.

Definite commitments at doctorate award, by non-science and engineering fields of study: 1993–2013

(Percent)
NOTE: Definite commitment refers to a doctorate recipient who is either returning to pre-doctoral employment or has signed a contract (or otherwise made a definite commitment) for employment or a postdoc position in the coming year.
SOURCE: Doctorate Recipients from U.S. Universities 2013. Related detailed data: tables 42, 43.

Job market: Non-science and engineering

The proportion of doctorate recipients with definite commitments for employment or postdoc study declined in 2013 for the fourth time in the past 5 years in every broad non-S&E field of study. The share of doctorate recipients with definite commitments reached 20-year low points in each of these non-S&E fields.

Definite commitments for academic employment in the United States, by field of doctoral study: 1993–2013

(Percent)
NOTE: Percentages are based on those with both definite commitments for employment in the coming year (including those missing employer type) and plans to stay in the United States.
SOURCE: Doctorate Recipients from U.S. Universities 2013. Related detailed data: tables 44, 51, 52.

First postgraduate position: Academic employment

In 2013, half of all doctorate recipients with definite commitments for employment in the United States (excluding those with commitments for postdoc positions) reported that their principal job would be in academe. The rate at which doctorate recipients take academic positions upon graduation varies by field of study.

The highest rates of academic employment are reported by doctorate recipients in humanities and other non-S&E fields; the lowest rates are reported by engineering and physical sciences doctorates. Over the past 10 years, the rate of academic employment has declined in life sciences, physical sciences, and engineering, whereas the academic employment rate of doctorates in education and other non-S&E fields has increased.

Postdoc rate, by field of study: 1993–2013

(Percent)
NOTE: Percentages are based on the number of doctorate recipients who reported definite postgraduation commitments for a postdoc position or other employment.
SOURCE: Doctorate Recipients from U.S. Universities: 2013. Related detailed data: tables 44, 51, 52.

First postgraduate position: Postdoc positions

Historically, postdoc positions have been a customary part of the early career paths of doctoral scientists in the life sciences and physical sciences; such positions are becoming increasingly prevalent in engineering and social sciences fields as well. However, the proportion of doctorate recipients taking postdoc positions declined in 2013 in life sciences, physical sciences, and social sciences fields, and the proportion increased only slightly in engineering and non-S&E fields. Still, nearly two-thirds of 2013 doctoral graduates in life sciences took postdoc positions immediately after graduation, and nearly half of all S&E doctorate recipients did so. The proportion of social sciences doctorate recipients accepting postdoc positions has increased the most sharply over the past decade, climbing from 28% in 2003 to 36% in 2013.

Median basic annual salary of doctorate recipients with definite commitments in the United States, by position type and field of study: 2013

(Basic annual salary in dollars)
NOTE: Other non-S&E fields includes business management and administration.
SOURCE: Doctorate Recipients from U.S. Universities 2013. Related detailed data: tables 48, 49.

Median salaries

In 2013, doctorate recipients who had definite commitments for a postdoc or other employed position 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.

In 2013, doctorate recipients who took postdoc positions reported similar salaries regardless of their field of study. In all broad fields, postdoc salaries were lower than salaries reported by doctorate recipients entering non-postdoc employment in industry or academe. Academic salaries lagged behind industry salaries in all broad fields except humanities. Doctorate recipients in other non-S&E fields and in engineering earned the highest median academic salaries, and doctorate recipients in other non-S&E fields and in physical sciences earned the highest median salaries in industry positions.

Stay rate of temporary visa holders with definite commitments in the United States, by field of study: 1993–2013

(Percent)
NOTE: Percentages are based on temporary visa holders who reported definite postgraduation commitments for a postdoc position or other employment.
SOURCE: Doctorate Recipients from U.S. Universities: 2013. Related detailed data: tables 51, 52, 53.

Postgraduation location

Over the past 20 years, temporary visa holders earning doctorates have been increasingly likely to stay in the United States immediately following graduation (stay rate). In 1993, more than half of doctorate recipients holding temporary visas reported definite postgraduation commitments for a postdoc or other employment in the United States; by 2013, the stay rate had risen to nearly three-fourths.

Stay rates are highest in fields where temporary visa holders are most prevalent: engineering, physical sciences, and life sciences. Over the past 20 years, the pattern of stay rates for non-S&E doctorate recipients and social sciences doctorate recipients has been similar, and the level of stay rates for both fields remains approximately 20 percentage points below the stay rates of graduates in engineering, physical sciences, and life sciences.