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“The Nonacademic Careers of STEM Ph.D. Holders”

April 7th, 2014

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The American Institutes for Research recently published a brief authored by Lori Turk-Bicakci, Andrea Berger, and Clarisse Haxton examining the tendency of STEM PhDs to obtain nonacademic careers although they originally had the intent of remaining in academia. The report breaks down the different fields of work, from basic research to project management, between race and sex. Independent of the factors leading to 61% of STEM PhD holders to enter nonacademic careers, this majority alone indicates room for better training in PhD programs in preparation for nonacademic jobs.

“The primary research questions are as follows:

1. How do nonacademic career choices and work activities differ by gender and race/ethnicity?
2. How does the proportion of nonacademic STEM PhD holders working outside of STEM fields differ by gender
and race/ethnicity?

Key findings include the following:

  • Approximately half of Black, Hispanic, and White female STEM PhD holders and Black and Hispanic male STEM PhD holders were in nonacademic careers, whereas two thirds of Asian female STEM PhD holders and almost three fourths of Asian male STEM PhD holders were in nonacademic careers. About three fifths of White male STEM PhD holders were in nonacademic careers.
  • Among those in nonacademic careers, the largest proportion worked in private, for-profit organizations or government; however, Black, Hispanic, and White female STEM PhD holders were more likely to work in government and less likely to work in private, for-profit organizations compared with Asian females and males of all racial/ethnic groups.
  • Approximately half of STEM PhD holders in nonacademic careers worked on research and development (R&D) as their primary activity, but Black, Hispanic, and White female STEM PhD holders were less likely to work on R&D compared with other groups.
  • Approximately one fifth of STEM PhD holders in nonacademic careers did not work in a STEM field; however, Black, Hispanic, and White female STEM PhD holders were more likely to work outside of STEM compared with other groups.”

Read the whole article on the American Institutes for Research site.
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