There was a nice piece on the Naturejobs site this week, written by postdoc Katherine Sixt. She describes how she started to realize that not every postdoc will eventually become a professor. There simply aren’t enough positions available, so postdocs should look at other careers. But as a postdoc, and even as a PhD student, you are being trained as if you were aiming for a job similar to the one your supervisor has, and anything else is considered strange and different. Katherine writes: “I feel as though I have to sneak off to careers seminars where scientists describe their non-traditional paths. Thoughts of alternative career choices are still dirty secrets for some.”
Over the past few years, I’ve read many similar articles. Some from the position of the postdoc looking for work, others more reflective and distant – considering ways in which to deal with the simple truth that there are far more postdocs than there are academic positions for them to fill.
What do you think: Should there be fewer postdoc and PhD positions? Or different kinds of trainee positions, where some include training for scientific careers outside of the lab? Have a read through the following articles and blog posts to see what others have to say about it:
In Which I Dream of Revolution – Jenny Rohn
Quote: “Yesterday morning I woke up and realized that the entire logistical edifice underpinning the scientific profession is flawed. What’s more, I didn’t just see the problem; I had a glimpse of its solution.”
Do We Produce too Many Biomedical Trainees? – Jeff Sharom [Link to PDF]
Hypothesis Journal, 6(1), 17-29 (2008)
This is a review article that looks at evidence for and against the idea that there are too many trainees.
Quote: “Paradoxically, while research aims to recruit rational individuals, research may not be a rational career choice”
Are we training too many scientists? – Bijal Trivedi (in The Scientist, 2006)
Quote: “With rising numbers of newly minted life science PhDs, fewer tenure track positions open, and bulging ranks of increasingly frustrated postdocs, many want to know why the number of PhDs and the focus of their education is out of balance with job prospects and career expectations.”
Are there too many PhDs? – Jason Hoyt (on the Mendeley blog)
Quote: “Only then, do students realize the road that lies ahead is dotted with pit stops leading, not to Nobel glory, but a journeyman career with salaries well below that of their friends who went into business, law, or medicine.”