Social science PhDs get the jobs

November 19, 2004

People with PhDs in the social sciences are more likely to land jobs than those with doctorates in the sciences or arts and humanities, according to new research.

The UK GRAD programme found that social science PhD graduates have the lowest unemployment rate - just 2 per cent. Those with PhDs in the physical sciences and engineering have an unemployment rate of 4.7 per cent, and those in the arts and humanities have a rate of 4.5 per cent.

Janet Metcalfe, director of UK GRAD, said: "These are very low unemployment rates and show the value of the PhD." But she said she had not expected social scientists to come out so well.

"The assumption is that, because there is a shortage of scientists, PhDs in this field are more employable than social scientists. So I was surprised," she said.

"It is good news for social scientists and, indeed, for those in the arts and humanities - they are just as employable as scientists."

The findings are part of the UK GRAD report What Do PhDs Do? , which was first reported in The Times Higher last month.

Overall, the report found that more than half of UK PhD students quit academia for industry and that their qualifications make PhD students highly valued employees.

The figures, based on the first destination survey carried out by the Higher Education Statistics Agency, also showed that 60 per cent of scientists leave academia compared with between 30 and 35 per cent of arts, humanities, social science and economic PhDs.

Of those science PhDs who stay in academia, 25 per cent do post-doctoral research. This compares with 14-15 per cent of arts, humanities and social science PhD graduates.

Ms Metcalfe said: "Scientists tend towards research, while those in the arts, humanities and social science tend towards teaching and lecturing posts."

Whether they go into industry or academe, nearly half (44 per cent) of all science PhD graduates remain in research occupations.

In all, 12,520 people were awarded a PhD in 2003 - of these, 7,0 were from the UK. The statistics are just for UK PhD students and are likely to be an overestimate, as they include those about to take up employment.

On January 1 2004, 3.2 per cent of UK PhD graduates from 2003 described themselves as unemployed. Of these, 14.8 per cent were due to start a job within a month.

claire.sanders@thes.co.uk

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