Reality: Less than 50% of Researchers Achieve an Academic Career

A lot of academically-inclined students today are misguided by the belief that choosing the right department of studies will help in securing an academic job in the long run. This idea is actually quite faulty from the start, which more and more students who finish their Ph.Ds get to realize unfortunately. If you have been working on your thesis for quite some time, you would already know that academic jobs are not created by demand. Unlike other vocations which are usually sustained by market forces, academia relies on a limited number of faculty members, many of whom have full tenure and are not looking to resign anytime soon.

Also, universities do not run campus placements on a yearly basis. This means that you can never rest assured that you will get a job after your research and study programs are over. If you want to apply for a teaching position, you will have to go out and build your network and depend on luck to get through. This can be a very challenging task, and reality often spells the worst scenario for many aspirants.

Research and Survey:

Vitae, which is an academic career site helping fresh doctorates and graduates to find academic jobs, conducted the Careers in Research Online Survey in the year 2013. In this survey, it asked several of its members to talk about their career aspirations and their sense of confidence in matter of success. Around three-quarter of the total members stated that they aspired to getting jobs in higher education, but only two-thirds of them admitted that they had the confidence that they will definitely get the job.

This sense of low-confidence in most candidates comes from personal experiences. A lot of them land interviews but cannot go any further. Most of them do not even get the chance to do an interview because of less experience in the industry or relatively poorer academic performance when compared to others.

Vitae's Director of Intelligence and Research, Robin Mellors-Bourne is quite less optimistic about the situation. He believes that fewer than half are going to make it in the long run. Such news can do little to lift up hopes in potential candidates who want to work at reputed academic institutions.

Possible solutions:

The situation looks so bleak that very little could be expected to progress in a short period of time. The crippling blow comes from the inability of research staff to provide ample support to new aspirants and researchers to find good jobs out of academia as well. At the Vitae Researcher Development International Conference 2013 which was held in Manchester on 4th and 7th of September, different possibilities were entertained to help a large number of postdoctoral students to engage in jobs placed outside of the academic streams. The results were less than satisfying.

Reasons for less success during job huntings:

This Conference and Survey was aimed at a total of 8216 research staff members who could provide good performance reviews and information on several academic careers that are available to the candidates. But at the conference they admitted that they did not feel that their academic career advice was valued or proved to be effective. They felt limited in their options and function.

The Higher Education Academy also conducted the PostGraduate Research Experience Survey which proved that many junior academics find it incredibly hard to find access to valuable information regarding the career choices they should be making. They often go to a certain department because they expect it to show potential for success, but then eventually realize that their said department is almost a dead-end with nowhere to go.

About 48,401 post graduate students were involved in the survey and most of them found that career advice opportunities were very low in all subjects. A lot of them are not even adequately prepared to handle the fierce competition from their contenders. Overall, their lack of experience and false expectations lead them down the garden path. Unless they are coached well to seek jobs in industries outside of academia, they will never fare well.


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