Chad Evans

Graduate Student  -  Sociology and Statistics  -  University of Pennsylvania

email echad@sas.upenn.edu  -  office 280 McNeil Building -  phone 215.584.6986

Doctorate Recipients in the Labor Force

There has recently been a wave of claims that the value of a doctorate has diminished in recent decades.  This is largely tied to the visible segment of Ph.D. graduates who had hoped to obstain a fill-time, tenure track position, but for one reason or another were unable to.  As a result, many of these graduates were (and are) forced to work part-time and sometimes at multiple institutions in order to piece together a living.  This seems to be the evidence that the Ph.D. does not command what it used to on the labor market.  My dissertation, "Beginning Off-track: Career Patterns of Aspiring Academics," examines this proposition in more detail.  

Outside of the academic context, however, the working conditions of Ph.D.'s seem to be a far cry from the abject portrayals in the media.  Consider the unemployment rates of people with different degree types since the beginning of the great recession.  Despite increasing production of doctorate recipients, the unemployment rate stayed at or around two percent, even at the nadir of the economic crisis.  


Geographically, the unemployment of Ph.D.s seems to be concentrated in large states (both in population and area).  California and Texas stand out in this regard, as well as the northeasten states of Ohio and Pennsylvania.  Montana, Alaska and North Dakota, (large states with low population density) also contain higher rates of Ph.D. unemployment.  However, it is important to note that, although the unemployment rate is relatively higher in these states, the unemployment of someone with a Ph.D. is somewhat rare.

Doctorate holders also tend to be in a secure financial position.  The median earnings of an employee with a doctorate was approximately $80,000 in 2014.  This is nearly twice the median earnings of individuals with bachelor's degrees and vastly more than those without postsecondary degrees.