Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Poor Economy Spikes PhD Physcists Unemployment to 4%

Nobody gets a PhD in physics for the money - mostly because there isn't a lot of money in physics research - but there are some nice economic benefits to having a PhD in physics.  For example, while the rest of the country is dealing with 9% unemployment, the latest data from the AIP's Statistical Research Center shows that PhD physicists are experiencing only 4% unemployment.  I may not make a ton of money, but with a PhD I'm likely to at least be bringing home a paycheck.

The AIP also released data on what those 96% of physics PhD's were doing immediately after graduation; over half (56%) take a post-doc, a third take a potentially permenent position, and 7% take an "other temporary" position, which I'm guessing includes things like non-tenure track faculty positions.  If we break things down even further we can see that the type of work a new PhD gets hired to do depends greatly on which of those three categories he or she falls under.  
As one would expect, those that take potentially permanent positions often switch subfields or leave physics entirely, which many advisers seem to think is a terrible waste of a PhD.

Naturally, what one get paid varies greatly between what type of employment you have. 
Those that work in the private sector have typical starting salaries between $70k and $100k, while on the other end of the spectrum post-docs in academia typically make between $40k and $50k.

So what's the moral of the story?  Getting a physics PhD is a good career move if you don't want to be rich but would like a fairly stable career trajectory.

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