And especially if you’re interested in traditional industry or academia. Comrade PhysioProf, however, declares:
There is a big fucken snivel-fest going on over at DrugMonkey about how terrible it is for universities to increase the number of PhDs they award in the natural sciences and how morally correct it is for institutions to decrease their admission of PhD students, because there are not enough jobbes as faculty or other researcher positions for the number of PhDs produced. This is a total load of arrant bullshitte.
So, I went to the Bureau of Labor Statistics and looked at how ‘medical scientists’ (code 19-1042) are doing, both in terms of wages and employment numbers. I chose this category because the biological sciences are quite large; the other reason is that this category is defined as requiring a PhD so we don’t have the problem of lumping together people with different degrees (besides, it’s my blog–if you want to look at something else, go ahead and blog it!).
In terms of salaries, at every level, once you adjust for inflation, salaries have remained constant from 2000 – 2011 (.xlsx file here). What hasn’t remained constant is employment (data are for 2002 – 2011, since that’s when the category breakdown begins):
That’s a rapidly expanding base, and the marginal rate of growth certainly can’t keep pace as it did from 2002 – 2009: does anyone really believe we’ll have ~200,000 medical scientists in 2021? Also, it’s worth noting that the ‘traditional’ avenues of academic and corporate research have been whacked hard in the last few years–it would appear the ARRA funding simply lessened the bleeding.
But to return to the original question: is there a PhD glut? If you’re older, probably 45+, you made your way in a world with massive job growth. Life was good, with lots of opportunities. But if you’re a younger PhD–under 35–the job market has tightened in your professional formative years. And remember, we need to add jobs to employ newly minted PhDs.
This is what one might expect in a self-reinforcing hierarchical system with finite resources.