Preparing Future Ph.D.'s For A Changing Job Market

The market for Ph.D.'s in science and engineering is a matter of perennial concern, both to employers and to those who earn these degrees and expect to make a career in the field of their choice. Predicting supply and demand of the scientific work force, however, is a tricky business fraught with uncertainties. In 1989, widely reported statistics from the National Science Foundation caused NSF to project a shortage of Ph.D. scientists by the middle to the end of this decade. Events turned out d

Richard Zare
Jan 4, 1998

The market for Ph.D.'s in science and engineering is a matter of perennial concern, both to employers and to those who earn these degrees and expect to make a career in the field of their choice. Predicting supply and demand of the scientific work force, however, is a tricky business fraught with uncertainties. In 1989, widely reported statistics from the National Science Foundation caused NSF to project a shortage of Ph.D. scientists by the middle to the end of this decade. Events turned out differently, and it is instructive to understand what happened.

From what I can discern, NSF projected a drop in the number of bachelor's degrees in the natural sciences and in engineering based on a demographic decline in the number of college-age Americans. NSF then put forward a pipeline model in which bigger pipes feed smaller pipes in a progression from K-12 to undergraduate to graduate degrees....

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