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Five and Gone

Half of academic researchers leave after about five years, CNBC reports.

Researchers from Indiana University and Georgia Tech examined workforce trends among astronomers, ecologists, and robotics researchers since the 1960s. As they reported in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences last week, they found the time it took half a cohort to leave the field declined from 35 years in the 1960s to five years by the 2010s. At the same time, the researchers note an increase in the number of researchers who never transition from a supporting scientist role to a lead role.

First author Staša Milojević from Indiana tells CNBC that postdoc positions have gone from rare in the 1950s to necessary today to land an tenure-track position, but she notes that some researchers bounce from postdoc to postdoc as those spots outnumber the available tenure-track jobs.

"It is important for students who are considering entering graduate programs to understand the realities in terms of the diminishing prospects for a stable, long-term research career, versus temporary employment opportunities that eventually result in leaving active research," Milojević adds.