Early Career of Recent U.S. Social Science PhDs. Learning and Teaching

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In this article, we analyze findings of the largest, most comprehensive survey of the career paths of social science PhD graduates to date, Social Science PhDs Five+ Years Out (SS5)SS5 surveyed more than 3,000 graduates of U.S. PhD programmes in six social science fields six to ten years after earning their PhD. The survey collected data on family, career and graduate school experiences. Like previous studies in Australia, the U.K., the U.S.A. and Germany, SS5 found that graduates several years after completing their education had mostly positive labour market experiences, but only after undergoing a transitional period of insecurity and uncertainty.

Most SS5 doctoral students wanted to become professors, despite the difficult academic job market and the existence of a non-academic market for PhD labour. Many respondents’ career pathways included a delayed move into a faculty tenure-track position, but exceptionally few moved from a faculty tenure-track position into another labour market sector. Respondents reported that their PhD programmes had not trained them well in several skills important for academic and non-academic jobs. Men’s and women’s career paths were remarkably similar, but, we argue, women ‘subsidised’ gender equality in careers by paying higher personal costs than men. We conclude with recommendations.

Morrison, R., Rudd E., & Nerad, M. (2011). Early Career of Recent U.S. Social Science PhDs. Learning and Teaching: The International Journal of Higher Education in the Social Science. Vol. 4, issue 2, pp. 6-29.  Download

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