Ph.D. Plight, A Numbers Game?

Much of the pressure that postdocs are feeling these days boils down to a matter of numbers: the growth in the production of biomedical Ph.D.s outpacing the growth in the number of desirable research jobs. For example, a recent report from the National Academy of Sciences (NAS) found that the annual number of biomedical Ph.D.s awarded to U.S. citizens and permanent residents increased 10% in the late 1980s and early '90s-rising from 3,400 in 1987 to 3,800 in 1992. One indicator that the supply of biomedical Ph.D.s may be exceeding demand is the starting salaries of Ph.D.s who hold full-time jobs, excluding postdoc positions. The NAS report shows that the starting salaries of biomedical Ph.D.s have been growing relatively more slowly than salaries for Ph.D.s in other scientific fields, with biomedical Ph.D.s' salaries increasing 8% less than the salaries of other science Ph.D.s between 1979 and 1991.

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