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:: Posted by American Biotechnologist on 05-07-2012
A very scary, yet eye openning, article appeared in The Chronicle of Higher Education recently. The article, which is titled “The Future of the Ph.D.” discusses the downfall of the coveted tenure faculty position, and how only 30 percent of of the teaching faculty are tenured and tenure-track academics.
The author also highlights the dismal plight of female graduate students who dare to succumb to their maternal instincts during the course of their graduate studies.
The article finishes with the thought provoking question “Is the Ph.D. worth saving?”
This past week, Norman Johnson, an evolutionary geneticist, science writer and adjunct professor at the University of Massachusetts added his two cents based on a recent report on the state of doctoral graduates by the National Science Foundation . According to the report, 2009 marked the largest single-year increase in the proportion of doctorate recipients taking postdoc positions during the 2004–09 period against a backdrop of decreasing employment opportunities for recent doctoral graduates.
Dr. Johnson’s reaction to this news is mixed. He writes:
If we expect most biology graduate students to go on to research faculty or even teaching faculty positions, then 8,000 biology doctorates a year is clearly too many. There just aren’t enough jobs. If, however, biology researchers and teachers at institutions that award doctorates seriously consider jobs in non-academic positions as being worthy of the doctoral students, then 8,000 a year may not be enough.
I am not sure whether or not the private sector can absorb that many PhD graduates but in order to move in that direction, there needs to be an increased effort to educate recent graduates on their employment options and government programs encouraging them to emigrate from their comfortable academic cocoon into the rough and tumble world of industry.
Science graduates have poured oodles of time and money into their education and they deserve recognition and fair compensation for their efforts. Let’s give them the vocational support and respect they’ve earned. I believe that society will benefit from it in the long run.
:: Posted by American Biotechnologist on 05-06-2010
The data is in and it’s looking good for American Biotechnologists. According to the comprehensive Battelle/BIO State Bioscience Initiatives 2010 Report the bioscience industry experienced rapid growth between the years 2001 to 2008 (the years for which data is available so far) and is not showing any sign of slowing down into the 2009 recession (when compared to the rest of the economy). According to the report:
1.42 Million people were employed in the US Biosciences sector as of 2008
The number of employees grew 1.4% from 2007 to 2008 (double the private sector growth)
39% of all Bioscience jobs were in Research, Testing and Medical Labs (RMTL)
The average annual wage of RMTLs was 1.7x more than the national average at $80,785
Key states for RMTL employment were California, Massachusetts, New Jersey and Pennsylvania
On the downside, the study found that for biotech companies size really does matter. Companies earning revenues of $1 Billion or more represented all the net income in the biotech sector. Furthermore, venture capital activity was down 37% in 2009 compared to 2008.
In spite of what we reported in a previous post that Washington’s stimulus package provided a renewed sense of enthusiasm among biotechnologists (see Funding Genomics: A Time to Celebrate), when the stimulus package funding is removed, NIH funding in 2009 was down 7.5% from 2008.
All told, the report paints a pretty nice picture of the biosciences industry, especially when compared to the general US economy. With all of the excitement generated by these recent reports I’m feeling very confident about my future as a biotechnologist. What about you?