Skip navigation
The Black Hole

The PhD Placement Project


Last week Dave wrote a post on how universities can begin keeping track of graduate student and postdoctoral fellow outcomes. With blogs such as “100 reasons not to go to graduate school” popping up online, as well as many articles increasingly critical of the state of higher education, it warrants that prospective students think long and hard about pursuing a career in academia. It is therefore imperative that accurate and unbiased information be available for each stage of academic career advancement for every field. One solution with which I wholly agree is that academics publicly disclose the career progression of their former trainees online, and pursuant to this theme I wanted to make our readers aware of a fact-finding survey by the Chronicle of Higher Education titled the Ph.D. Placement Project.

The justification for this initiative is ample. Students entering PhD programs are woefully unaware of the average times to completion (nearly a decade on average in the humanities); number/length of postdoctoral fellowships pursuant; inadequate salary, protection and benefits provided during this additional training period; the toll job insecurity plays on career progression; and limited job prospects thereafter. As stable, modestly-paying teaching positions at universities and colleges become harder to get, academic appointments have begun shifting toward exploitative systems of adjunct labour.

While policy reform at both the institutional and federal levels should be advocated for (please follow this link for instructions on how to contact your Member of Parliament, Senator, or Congressperson), it behooves us to support those trainees coming up through the system now. Allowing prospective students to make more informed decisions on career progression is an important first step.

 “Advisers and prospective students need something more than a scattered helping of infrequently updated best-case scenarios. We need externally verified, reasonably comprehensive data about individual programs and maybe even individual advisers”

– James Yang, in the Chronicle.

The PhD Placement Project aims to gather reliable data about job placements for PhDs and answer the questions: Who’s getting jobs? Where are they? Which doctoral programs are doing well at placing their PhDs in tenure track positions? Which are doing poorly? Are many universities and colleges making an effort to help their PhDs land non-academic jobs? etc. The answers should be illuminating, and will likely have a significant impact on changing career advice for young investigators. I encourage everyone to get involved.

Here is how you can make a difference:

Share: The Ph.D. Placement Project has stopped collecting survey responses but those of you that didn’t get a chance to share your thoughts are asked to contribute to their comments section, or send them a note to the following address: [email protected]

Contribute: Whether or not you have a PhD, The PhD Placement Project wants to hear your ideas on how they can collect and publish good data in a way that would be most helpful. 

Stay posted: Get on the project’s e-mail list and start following them on Twitter.

Jonathan Thon
Dr. Thon is the Founder and CEO of STRM.BIO. Before STRM.BIO Dr. Thon Founded Platelet BioGenesis where he served as CEO and Chief Scientific Officer. Before Platelet BioGenesis Dr. Thon was an Assistant Professor at Harvard Medical School.
Post a comment
University Affairs moderates all comments according to the following guidelines. If approved, comments generally appear within one business day. We may republish particularly insightful remarks in our print edition or elsewhere.

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

  1. Richard / July 24, 2013 at 14:38

    The link to the survey says it is no longer accepting responses

  2. Jonathan Thon / July 24, 2013 at 18:39

    It looks like you are right. Below is the latest link to the Ph.D. Placement Project blog outlining some of the early data they’ve collected:

    If you didn’t get a chance to share your thoughts, please contribute to their comments section, or send them a note to the following address: [email protected]