Wrapping it up in a person: Examining employment and earnings outcomes for Ph.D. recipients

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Science  11 Dec 2015:
Vol. 350, Issue 6266, pp. 1367-1371
DOI: 10.1126/science.aac5949

Tracking the knowledge economy

Although the U.S investment in scientific research can be documented readily, its output is harder to track. Zolas et al. combined data obtained from eight universities on their doctorate recipients with data from business registries and the U.S. Census Bureau. This allowed them to link Ph.D. recipients to all their subsequent employers. Doctoral recipients tended to stay in academia or join large companies with high salaries. Roughly 20% stayed in the state in which they received their degree. In the year after receiving a Ph.D., mathematicians and computer scientists received the highest salaries, and biologists received the lowest.

Science, this issue p. 1367


In evaluating research investments, it is important to establish whether the expertise gained by researchers in conducting their projects propagates into the broader economy. For eight universities, it was possible to combine data from the UMETRICS project, which provided administrative records on graduate students supported by funded research, with data from the U.S. Census Bureau. The analysis covers 2010–2012 earnings and placement outcomes of people receiving doctorates in 2009–2011. Almost 40% of supported doctorate recipients, both federally and nonfederally funded, entered industry and, when they did, they disproportionately got jobs at large and high-wage establishments in high-tech and professional service industries. Although Ph.D. recipients spread nationally, there was also geographic clustering in employment near the universities that trained and employed the researchers. We also show large differences across fields in placement outcomes.

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