College of Liberal Arts & Sciences

The Postdoc Rat Race

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Tuesday, November 17, 2015
2:30 pm, MRB 202

Dr. Donna Ginther

Professor of Economics and Director of the Center for Science Technology & Economic Policy, The University of Kansas

The Postdoc Rat Race

Conventional wisdom holds postdoctoral training to be a necessary step for biomedical careers. We examined the trends in postdoctoral study and modeled the impact of the postdoc on later careers. Starting in a postdoc improves the probability of working in a tenure-track job. However, chances of obtaining that job are low and falling over time. Although the postdoc is positively associated with research careers, nearly half of biomedical PhDs who skipped the postdoc engage in research. Former postdocs are paid significantly less during their early careers than those who skipped postdocs, regardless of employment sector. Thus, the postdoc has no discernible economic value to individuals besides improving chances of obtaining increasingly unlikely tenure-track jobs, suggesting an economic “rat race” model. The talk concludes with a brief examination of career outcomes for quantitative biologists.

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