Doctoral graduates more "recession proof" says new Vitae report

Analysis of research into the employment situations of doctoral, masters and first degree graduates suggests those with a doctoral qualification are more "recession proof" than those with other qualifications.

What do researchers do? 2013 spotlight Vitae has used data from successive HESA ‘Longitudinal Destinations of Leavers from Higher Education' surveys, each based on more than 2000 respondents, to look at the employment and circumstances of doctoral graduates over the period the UK entered recession. The report entitled: ‘What do researchers do? Early career progression of doctoral graduates' is the newest title in the series of 'What do researchers do?' publications and online resources.

Other key findings from the research indicate:

  • Overall doctoral graduates continued to perceive a positive impact of their doctoral degree qualification and experience and that this was enabling them to progress well in relation to their career aspirations.
  • Many doctoral graduates working in early-career roles in higher education (HE) research were earning more than those working in research roles outside HE. This is the opposite of the situation in 2008
  • Across all employment sectors more graduates of all types were employed on fixed-term contracts than in 2008, with some evidence for a shortening of fixed-term employment contracts

Professor Rick Rylance, Chair of RCUK, said:

 ‘This report provides a fascinating overview of doctoral graduates' early careers, looking at their employment three years on from their PhDs and highlighting the major value of doctoral study to researchers, employers and society at large. Building on Vitae's analyses, RCUK and other UK funding bodies are exploring the significance of this information for career paths and the impact of doctoral training over longer periods.’

Professor Nigel Vincent, Vice-President for Research and HE Policy, The British Academy said:

 ‘ This publication is essential reading for multiple audiences. It is an invaluable resource to inform policy making and investment in doctoral education, particularly in the current challenging funding environment. It gives actual and prospective doctoral researchers clear evidence of the value of their degree. It provides careers advisers, researcher developers and supervisors with comparative information on the employability of doctoral graduates and the breadth of potential careers. Finally, it will enable employers in all employment sectors to appreciate better what doctoral graduates can offer them.’

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News coverage: 
Times Higher Education article: 'PhDs prove relatively recession-proof'