13 May 2010

So You Want to be a Professor?

The above figure comes from a recent report of The Royal Society -- The Scientific Century: Securing Our Future Prosperity. It shows career trajectories for academic PhDs in Great Britain. I would not be surprised to see a similar pattern in the United States. The fact that only a small fraction of PhDs go on to positions as professors, I was struck by how small that number actually is.


  1. It shows that science is not a good career choice.

    I would recommend get a good degree then get a proper job.

  2. Perhaps this indicates that "academic science" is not a good career choice.
    I did not choose it due to the whole competing for research grant business model. It leads to wasted work (on grants that are not funded) and overwork in my view, at the time of life when many women would like to raise children and work and not work 80 hour weeks. Perhaps this has improved since I graduated (80's). I certainly hope so.

    I think if there were "good" science jobs, then many people could be attracted back to that sector.

    Maybe I gave it too cursory a read, but it looks like the same old requests for more funding for the same old business model, based on scary future projections.

  3. The problem with UK education was illustrated by the fact many engineering graduates from top universities in the '80s couldn't get jobs because they couldn't do anything. Everyone was educated as if they would do phds.

    Concorde was nice. Not practical, but very cool.

  4. I find it interesting (but not surprising) that many of those who reach "permanent research staff" then shunt over to jobs outside science rather than industry research. It is a fact that too long a time in academia often makes people unsuitable for industrial research.

  5. of course Professor is a very different role in the UK to the USA. UK Permanent research staff = faculty tenure (often associate prof in the USA). There will generally only be 5 or 6 professors in a department of 40-50 staff.