For the past five years, the job prospects for those who have recently earned
an earth or space science Ph.D. have been improving, according to the latest
study of recent graduates conducted by the American Geophysical Union (AGU),
American Geological Institute (AGI) and the Statistical Research Center of the
American Institute of Physics (AIP). Following is a summary of this study, which
documents employment patterns and demographic characteristics of recent Ph.D.
The study shows continual improvement through indicators such as time to find employment and starting salaries. As these indicators improve, so too does the perception about the job market. In 1996, about two-thirds of the recent graduates felt that the job market was hopeless or bad, while only 4 percent felt it was good or excellent. By 2000, however, only 22 percent found the market bad and 28 percent believed it was in good shape for geoscientists.
The data are collected from the graduates via a survey sent out every February. Of the 270 Ph.D. graduates who received surveys in 2000, 148 responded, for a response rate of 55 percent. This report does not include new Ph.D.s who left the United States or those who earned their degrees from departments that do not have a geoscience term in their name.
Our survey also showed that Ph.D. graduates in the geosciences are unique in several ways compared to those in other sciences. Ten percent over the past three years started their current job more than one year before formally receiving their degree. Half of these graduates were employed in government, particularly the U. S. Geological Survey (USGS) and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). Most of the rest were evenly split between industry and academe on a 12-month salary base. On average, these Ph.D.s had been working for seven years by the time they finished their doctorates.
Recent graduates employed prior to graduation are heavily concentrated in solid earth geology (41 percent) followed by atmospheric sciences (19 percent) and oceanography (12 percent).
A second distinguishable feature of geoscience graduates is their age. For each of the last several years, the proportion of recent graduates over the age of 40 has increased: 16 percent in 1998, 20 percent in 1999 and 23 percent in 2000.
Also, earth and space science Ph.D.s wait an unusually long amount of time before they enter graduate school. In 2000, the average time between earning a bachelorís and starting a graduate program was 4.6 years. Only 37 percent of the graduates enter a Ph.D. program less than two years after earning a bachelorís.