Sunday, June 19, 2011

Alternatives to academic research for PhD

There are so many news articles lately on the value of college degrees. Of particular importance to me is the value of a science PhD. The basic problem is that there are too many science PhDs for traditional tenure track academic research positions. The number of PhDs generated at universities is based on available funding and the need for (cheap) labor for research projects, not on the job market for tenure track academic research positions. If PhD programs prepare students for other kinds of careers I don't think this is a problem. It really isn't a problem if PhD researchers are trained to transfer new technologies into new business ventures. That way some new PhDs will create new businesses to employ PhD scientists outside of academia.

I have seen some suggestions that universities should grant more masters and less PhDs. Then the masters can pursue research careers. The problem I see with this is the PhDs are more likely to gain the top leadership positions. This  would determine who gets the top posts early in the scientists careers and could hold back masters degree holders that are late bloomers.

I think a better solution is for departments to have tracks for PhD candidates to learn non academic research skills like technology transfer, business development, and management.

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