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A Possible Solution To The Diminishing Job Market For Ph.D.’s

Over 300 graduating students from 19 area colleges and universities throw their mortarboards in the air on the steps of the Philadelphia Museum of Art in a ceremony to honor their accomplishments sponsored by Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter Friday, May 11, 2012 in Philadelphia. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)

Once upon a time, earning a Ph.D. in America meant you were on your way to a career in academia. With a doctorate degree in hand, you had a pretty good shot at a full professorship, research support and the backing and credibility of a university.

Back in 1970, America was producing about a third of the world’s university students and half of the world’s science and technology doctorates. So there were plenty of students for all those aspiring professors to teach. But times have changed and since then, much of the rest of the world got busy handing out their own doctorates, and the result is a global glut of Ph.D.’s.

Too many would-be professors chasing too few jobs. And here’s a stunning statistic: Between 2005 and 2009, America produced 100,000 doctoral degrees but only 16,000 new professorships. Add to that the recent recession and the problem of too many Ph.D.’s and too few jobs is more acute than ever.

So what are all these highly qualified but often under or unemployed Ph.D.’s going to do? Well, Jon Wilkins, who earned a Ph.D. from Harvard back in 2002, had an idea: he’s established something called The Ronin Institute. It’s a brand new nonprofit that aims to connect all those unemployed Ph.D.’s with grant money, research projects, fellow academics and credibility — all outside the walls of a traditional university or college.


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  • Brad

    What about the growth of the use of adjunct professors and teaching fellows in universities?

  • Katinka

    Hooray for John Wilkins  doing something so creative to capture all the intellectual talent currently underemployed and understimulated intellectually! Despite multiple advanced academic degrees, publications and academic prizes the job market has been less than appreciative of the talents outside direct work experience in a directly related field that I bring to the table. Graduate school is not necessarily a place you acquire skills such as team work or leadership that are crucial outside of academia, nor are you encouraged to widen your career perspectives to any meaningful degree. The Ronan Institute is a great step towards cultivating truly independent and potentially cross-fertilizing scholarship that otherwise could be lost to society.

    • Iceman

       The gentleman’s name is “Jon Wilkins.” He says so himself. Take that to your table. Your comment is truly independent and potentially cross-fertilizing and is not lost on society. Thanks.

  • http://singingstring.org/ asongbird

    The university as it is now will not exist within 10 years. What will replace it? This is a move in the right direction.

  • Guest
  • Guest

    Excellent show, thanks so much for addressing this topic.  The high number of PhD’s shouldn’t be seen as a problem per se; it just requires new ways of doing and supporting research.  This sounds like a great model. 

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