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Becoming faculty is a goal for many scientists in academia, but the path is littered with hurdles, challenges and lessons to learn.
According to an ASCB infographic, less than 8% of biology PhD starters in the US will become faculty. Of course, there are many that start the PhD with no aim of becoming faculty, but many do have this goal. And for them, the competition can be fierce.
Based primarily on the 2012 NIH Workforce report this infographic represents current workforce sizes and annual fluxes before and after a PhD in the biomedical sciences in the US. The picture is not as dire as that painted for the UK by this 2010 Royal Society report, but many of these figures are based on estimates and self-reporting. We’ll have to wait for the NAS Postdoc Report for better data. In the meantime, that report’s chair, Greg Petsko, has divulged some interesting tidbits in his iBiology talk: the data on postdocs are so poor, many institutions can’t estimate the number of postdocs they have within an order of magnitude. Hopefully, clear data on these job markets will empower trainees to make better-informed career decisions.
We already know that the PhD Market is saturated, and articles that “promote awareness” or point out the PhD-Industry Gap are a dime a dozen. What’s missing from the equation are the solutions. The reality is that the first job that you obtain directly out of graduate school is the most crucial. It is also the most difficult. Therefore you need to be aware of all of your possible options.
Dr Schafer is new to the whole faculty job world (she started her faculty job in April 2015) and is still finding her way around as she moves into her laboratory and unpacks her microscope. Dr Lee has been a faculty member for a few years now, has settled in, but is still learning a lot of new things, especially about how he mentors his postdocs and PhD students. They, and other faculty, stresses just how difficult the job hunt can be. Not just because of the scarcity, but dealing with the emotional roller-coaster that accompanies it. From there they both give an insight into what it’s like actually setting up their labs, hiring staff and mentoring them throughout their careers.