how hard is academia?
A few days ago, we got into a discussion about whether the grad skool rulz ($2 – cheap!) are too pessimistic. One commenter wanted to know how hard academia is relative to other careers. Here’s how I would compute it. First, what % of students will complete their degrees? Second, what % of graduates land in jobs that they were aiming for? Call the final number (completion x intended employment rate) the “end of pipeline” number.
- Academic PhD programs have a 50% completion rate … after 10 years. According to this study, by year six 36% finish, by year ten 57% finish. Some fields do better than others, of course, but that’s the overall average. Half of those people will eventually land tenure track jobs… eventually. For example, this MLA report shows that 41% of literature PhDs end up on the tenure track. The end of pipeline rate is about 25%.
- Law school? Data is hard to find and it’s messy. Full time law students in, say, the top 50 tend to complete their degree most of the time. For example, the UConn law school has this document, which shows graduation rates of about 90%. Websites report employment rates from 70%-90%. Le’ts say 80% of grads find a job a year out. End of pipeline: .8 x .9 = 72%
- Medical school? The AAMC reports graduation rates of over 90% by year 7, which presumably includes a lot of re-entry and dual PhD students. The AAMC also reports that 95% of 2012 medical school seniors have been matched with residencies. End of pipeline rate: .9 x .95 = 85%
- MBA? Graduation rates for MBA’s hover in the 90%+ range (HBS has a 98% graduation rate). Top business schools, like Stanford, report short term employment rates of around 70% during the recession, but the number creeps up to 90% a few months out. End of pipeline? Let’s call it 90% x 90% = 81%.
In terms of getting people into the job for which they were trained, the hardest area is academia (~25%), then law school (~70%), then medical and business school (~80%) . And academia ain’t in the same ballpark as other fields. It ain’t even the same effing sport.