A number of graduate students in science and technology fields lose interest in pursuing an academic career during their training, raising questions about why that occurs.
A pair of researchers from the US and Germany examined how answers from the same cohort of 854 US PhD students in science and engineering changed from early on in their studies versus three year later. Cornell University's Michael Roach and Henry Sauermann from the European School of Management and Technology in Berlin report in PLOS One that slightly more than half — 55 percent — of students remained interested in an academic career, while a quarter lost interest all together.
However, they note that the loss of interest in an academic career doesn't affect all students and doesn't appear linked to the difficulties of obtaining an academic position. Instead, Roach and Sauermann say it is due to shifting interests among the students.
"Although labor market conditions almost certainly prevent some doctoral students who remain interested in an academic career from obtaining a faculty position, our findings suggest that many students turn away from academia for reasons other than the lack of faculty positions," they write.