Grad students to be warned about jobs
Publication Date: Wednesday May 31, 1995

STANFORD: Grad students to be warned about jobs

Shrinking employment choices are facing Ph.D.s

Getting a doctorate degree from Stanford University is a mark of certain academic distinction. But the distinction is translating less and less into sure-fire career opportunities, thanks to a glut of new Ph.D.s flooding the academic and other job markets.

As a result, Stanford plans to warn incoming doctoral students about their job prospects to make sure they understand the level of competition for jobs in academia.

Cornell's physics department recently decided to limit enrollment in its doctoral program because of the tighter job market.

Stanford has rejected that approach, but has decided that it's only fair to make its graduate students understand the realities of their post-degree opportunities.

Arthur Bienenstock, head of the university's Policy and Planning Board, recently told the Faculty Senate that the job market for academics at Stanford isn't going to change any time soon, either, with a projected faculty turnover rate of 5 percent a year through the year 2009.

The unemployment rate for new physics Ph.D.s nationally went from 5 percent in 1992 to 12 percent in 1993, Bienenstock said, while the unemployment rate for math Ph.D.s nationally was 14 percent last year.

Most of the increase in Ph.D.s in various fields is coming from schools not ranked in the top 20 of their fields. The elite schools used to provide a greater percentage of the total number of doctorate degrees than they do today, he said.

Bienenstock, the associate director of the Stanford Linear Accelerator Center, told the faculty that the Policy and Planning Board had rejected the option of reducing the number of doctorate students. The board's final report and recommendations are due in the fall.

But from Bienenstock's explanations and the comments of Provost Condoleezza Rice, it seems clear that Stanford is heading toward a system of maintaining its current program enrollments but also making certain that incoming graduate students understand what faces them when they complete their studies.

Bienenstock said he anticipated the final report will be accepted next fall. That means some academic departments would then begin providing prospective doctoral students with information on the job outlook, along with information on how long it will take to complete a Ph.D. and the amount of financial aid that can be expected.

But some departments don't have current job information and may have to wait a year to implement that recommendation, Bienenstock added.

Enrollment in the various graduate programs is largely dependent upon on the departments' ability to provide financial aid. "Most (students) can't afford to pay their own way," Bienenstock said.

Stanford currently has 14,031 students, about half of whom are undergraduates. Of the 7,470 graduate students, 4,643 are in doctoral programs.

--Don Kazak

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