You have your PhD. Now what?

Hopefully most doctoral students try think about that well before they complete their PhD. Either way, this infographic drawn from data from post-doctoral fellows in the USA makes for interesting reading -

(Source: the acsb post, 'Where Will a Biology PhD Take You?' by Jessica Polka.)

(Source: the acsb post, ‘Where Will a Biology PhD Take You?’ by Jessica Polka.)

The full-size image can be seen on the acsb (American Society for Cell Biology) blog; I have excerpted the relevant portions below for easier viewing.

The general pattern shown bears some resemblance to that in other countries – I’ve shown charts for New Zealand and the UK near the end of the article.

The tenured (or tenure-track) academic career position is reached by a minority of Ph.D. graduates; a majority say this is their preferred option -


There is a fairly heavy early exit, with fewer than half of starting PhD students going onto post-doctoral positions -


Most do find jobs that relate to science, but a substantial number (eventually) move out of science entirely -


The post-doc portion of the data is cyclic, with a large minority doing more than one post-doc.

This data is taken from several sources, but in particular a survey of post-doctoral researchers -


There is considerably more data, graphs and discussion arising from these, including:

The ascb blog indicates that better data may be available once the NAS (National Association of Science) post-doc report is available.

For comparison I have brought forward two of the graphics from when I last wrote on this subject below.

For New Zealand, less than 2% of graduates become professors -

(Source: MoRST, click on image for original.)

(Source: MoRST.)

(For those from outside of New Zealand or other (former) British Commonwealth nations, professor in New Zealand follows the British scheme.)

The UK shows a similar trend, but with a larger exodus from permanent research staff  -

Early next month (May, 2014) the 2014 Early Career Researchers meeting will be held in Wellington. At least three of the break-away groups examine science outside of academia (‘Non-academic use of research’, ‘Industrial scientists’ and ‘Working outside the government cash flow’).


Hat-tip to Alex / Lab & Field via twitter (@thelabandfield)

Some career-related posts on Code for life:

From science PhD to careers outside academia: what might help?

On alternatives to academic careers and “letting go”

Career pathways for NZ science Ph.D. students

Science PhD career preferences surveyed

Career paths, redux — the academic research career is the exception

On alternatives to academic careers and ’letting go’

’Other’ career paths — #IamScience

More inclusive re-entry to encourage departure to businesses?

Career ruminations

Changing the Ph.D.