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The Optimism of a Science PhD

While the road to a science PhD is long and increasingly won't end in an academic position, Daniel Lametti, a current graduate student, writes at Slate that a science PhD is still worth the effort. Lametti argues that only about half of science PhDs even want to pursue a career in academia and that a science PhD opens doors in other professions like investment banking or journalism. He says that unemployment for people with doctorates in scientific fields is low, citing numbers from a 2008 US National Science Foundation study that found a 1.7 percent unemployment rate for science PhDs and an American Chemical Society figure for this year showing 3.4 percent unemployment in its PhD ranks.

But blogger Chemjobber writes that he finds the "essay very frustrating. It is suffused with youthful optimism, which is no substitute for a cold look at the facts." He writes that the NSF figures Lametti uses are old, from 2008, and that the American Chemical Society has noted that 2011 saw the highest levels for unemployment for its overall members — 4.6 percent — since it started tracking unemployment levels in 1972. Chemjobber adds that the US Bureau of Labor Statistic has pegged the unemployment rate for chemists is at 6.1 percent.

HT: Derek Lowe at In the Pipeline

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