Why aren't PhD's and postdocs more well-payed/sought-after? Watch

HeavyTeddy
Badges: 16
Rep:
?
#1
Report Thread starter 4 years ago
#1
There are far more PhD candidates than there are post-doctoral positions in pretty much every field. As a result, I'm always hearing anecdotes of someone with PhD who is working at a call center/supermarket, struggling to make ends meet because they can't find a suitable job. Honestly this baffles me. For jobs that don't require specific degrees, the average PhD has a far more valuable and developed skills than the average undergraduate. A PhD (especially science PhDs) have incredible problem-solving skills and adaptability because it's neccesary when things don't go your way with research/in the lab. Science PhD's don't lack tenacity either considering it's not unheard of for postdocs to go into the lab extremely early or to be there till late to finish an experiment or to wait for results. Postdocs also have great multitasking ability and can deal with stress well since at any time, they might be juggling multiple experiments, be writing a paper, competing for grants etc. PhDs deal with highly-complicated equipment, are experts in data-analysis and translating data into clear and coherent oral and written presentations. The list goes on. Yet, they're paid peanuts relative to their education and skillset. Honestly, as someone who is pursuing a science-related degree, it annoys me how undervalued they are and the lack of respect is ridiculous as well. Medical doctors are an important part of the healthcare system and they are given due respect, but honestly, researchers are the ones that are innovating and pushing healthcare forward yet are completely ignored.
0
reply
shawn_o1
Badges: 21
Rep:
?
#2
Report 4 years ago
#2
You only have to look at the relationship between science and the media. We hardly hear anything about the scientists of today that are actually making a scientific breakthrough. Instead the media (tabloids especially) go nuts on non-stories about famous people, or stories that'll actually get them dosh (like Andrew Wakefield's MMR and Autism "study")
0
reply
poohat
Badges: 18
Rep:
?
#3
Report 4 years ago
#3
1) Many PhDs are in useless fields and have basically no employable skills (think "Sociology", etc).

2) The number of science PhDs is far higher than the number of science jobs, because PhD students in lab science are viewed as cheap labour so universities have a strong incentive to systematically overproduce them

3) Due to 1) and 2), many PhDs end up going for jobs which are unrelated to their degree, and on the generic graduate job market a non-elite PhD doesnt look much better than a top undergrad degree (almost anyone capable of getting a high 2:1 from Oxbridge/Imperial/etc is smart enough to get a PhD if they wanted one)

4) PhDs in fields which are highly employable [and which dont suffer from the overproduction problem in 2) ] tend to do well on the job market (both academically and non-academically). Think computer science, economics, engineering, statistics, etc. This is due to basic market forces.

5) Academic jobs are viewed as highly desirable and the competition is fierce, therefore universities can get away with paying low salaries. Many people would choose a £40k academic position over a £150k industry position without a second thought.

6) Academic research doesnt generate much revenue in the short term and UK universities are non-proft, therefore there isnt the same incentive to pay high salaries to good people that there is in industry. Yeah, the fact PhDs/postdocs earn a low amount means that its very hard to persuade top undergrads to do a PhD, but the difference between employing a great PhD/postdoc and a merely good one doesnt make much impact on a universitiy's profit so there isnt much incentive to pay them more (compare to the tech industry for example, where there is a huge difference between a great programmer and a merely good one, so huge sums of money get thrown at the top people). Salary is a function of marginal product.

7) Despite all the above, academic salaries in the UK are low compared to places like the US (and even Australia), which causes brain drain and the quality of research in the UK lags behind as a result. These days, the only reason why UK research is even vaguely competitive with the US is because continental European universities pay even worse (and tend to have terrible research conditions) so the UK sucks up the best academics from Europe that either dont want to arent able to move to the US
2
reply
tengentoppa
Badges: 17
Rep:
?
#4
Report 4 years ago
#4
(Original post by HeavyTeddy)
Honestly, as someone who is pursuing a science-related degree,
I guessed that from the title.
0
reply
Quady
Badges: 20
Rep:
?
#5
Report 4 years ago
#5
(Original post by HeavyTeddy)
There are far more PhD candidates than there are post-doctoral positions in pretty much every field. As a result, I'm always hearing anecdotes of someone with PhD who is working at a call center/supermarket, struggling to make ends meet because they can't find a suitable job. Honestly this baffles me. For jobs that don't require specific degrees, the average PhD has a far more valuable and developed skills than the average undergraduate. A PhD (especially science PhDs) have incredible problem-solving skills and adaptability because it's neccesary when things don't go your way with research/in the lab. Science PhD's don't lack tenacity either considering it's not unheard of for postdocs to go into the lab extremely early or to be there till late to finish an experiment or to wait for results. Postdocs also have great multitasking ability and can deal with stress well since at any time, they might be juggling multiple experiments, be writing a paper, competing for grants etc. PhDs deal with highly-complicated equipment, are experts in data-analysis and translating data into clear and coherent oral and written presentations. The list goes on. Yet, they're paid peanuts relative to their education and skillset. Honestly, as someone who is pursuing a science-related degree, it annoys me how undervalued they are and the lack of respect is ridiculous as well. Medical doctors are an important part of the healthcare system and they are given due respect, but honestly, researchers are the ones that are innovating and pushing healthcare forward yet are completely ignored.
Thats rubbish, jobs require experience, which, PhD students haven't sought.

As you say, there are more candidates than positions, so the pay will be rubbish.

If you care about pay, don't do a PhD.
0
reply
poohat
Badges: 18
Rep:
?
#6
Report 4 years ago
#6
(Original post by Quady)
Thats rubbish, jobs require experience, which, PhD students haven't sought..
Thats not always true at the top end - PhDs in highly technical and industry-relevant areas can get offered high (£60k+) starting salaries straight out of university for the same reason that some companies will pay top undergraduates £40-50k in their first job. If you have a PhD in something like economics or computer science or petroleum engineering from a top place then the world really is your oyster career-wise

The problem is that many/most PhD degrees arent directly useful in industry outside of a small number of jobs.
0
reply
M1011
Badges: 16
Rep:
?
#7
Report 4 years ago
#7
(Original post by poohat)
1) Many PhDs are in useless fields and have basically no employable skills (think "Sociology", etc).

2) The number of science PhDs is far higher than the number of science jobs, because PhD students in lab science are viewed as cheap labour so universities have a strong incentive to systematically overproduce them

3) Due to 1) and 2), many PhDs end up going for jobs which are unrelated to their degree, and on the generic graduate job market a non-elite PhD doesnt look much better than a top undergrad degree (almost anyone capable of getting a high 2:1 from Oxbridge/Imperial/etc is smart enough to get a PhD if they wanted one)

4) PhDs in fields which are highly employable [and which dont suffer from the overproduction problem in 2) ] tend to do well on the job market (both academically and non-academically). Think computer science, economics, engineering, statistics, etc. This is due to basic market forces.

5) Academic jobs are viewed as highly desirable and the competition is fierce, therefore universities can get away with paying low salaries. Many people would choose a £40k academic position over a £150k industry position without a second thought.

6) Academic research doesnt generate much revenue in the short term and UK universities are non-proft, therefore there isnt the same incentive to pay high salaries to good people that there is in industry. Yeah, the fact PhDs/postdocs earn a low amount means that its very hard to persuade top undergrads to do a PhD, but the difference between employing a great PhD/postdoc and a merely good one doesnt make much impact on a universitiy's profit so there isnt much incentive to pay them more (compare to the tech industry for example, where there is a huge difference between a great programmer and a merely good one, so huge sums of money get thrown at the top people). Salary is a function of marginal product.

7) Despite all the above, academic salaries in the UK are low compared to places like the US (and even Australia), which causes brain drain and the quality of research in the UK lags behind as a result. These days, the only reason why UK research is even vaguely competitive with the US is because continental European universities pay even worse (and tend to have terrible research conditions) so the UK sucks up the best academics from Europe that either dont want to arent able to move to the US
Find point 5 hard to believe. Some people, sure. But many?
0
reply
poohat
Badges: 18
Rep:
?
#8
Report 4 years ago
#8
(Original post by M1011)
Find point 5 hard to believe. Some people, sure. But many?
Most STEM faculty at good places could double their salary in industry without much difficulty. Many/most of the best PhD students choose academic jobs despite knowing that industry salaries are far higher. Look at areas like quant finance - the starting salary+bonus is around £80-90k and goes up quickly, yet the best math/physics PhDs still typically choose full time academic positions instead.

Probably the only field where industry regularly manages to lure away some of the best PhD students is computer science, and thats partly because top tech companies can offer work that (depending on the person) is just as intellectually interesting as university departments, not just due to the salaries.

You have to bear in mind that people who are primarily motivated by money usually dont do PhDs in the first place. PhD students are a self-selected population who usually find the idea of research and intellectual freedom very appealing (even if they dont know at the start whether they want to do it as a permanent career). If you mainly care about money and are good enough to get into a top PhD program then you wouldnt bother, you'd just take the Morgan Stanley/Google offer straight after your undergrad/masters
0
reply
Josb
Badges: 6
Rep:
?
#9
Report 4 years ago
#9
I think that only funded PhDs should be allowed. In the Arts, many students are self-funded and then flood the PhD job market.
0
reply
X

Quick Reply

Attached files
Write a reply...
Reply
new posts
Back
to top
Latest
My Feed

See more of what you like on
The Student Room

You can personalise what you see on TSR. Tell us a little about yourself to get started.

Personalise

Why wouldn't you turn to teachers if you were being bullied?

They might tell my parents (18)
6.98%
They might tell the bully (26)
10.08%
I don't think they'd understand (42)
16.28%
It might lead to more bullying (93)
36.05%
There's nothing they could do (79)
30.62%

Watched Threads

View All