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The value of a STEM PhD

Description

The quality and quantity of talented members of the US STEM workforce has

been a subject of great interest to policy and decision makers for the past 40 years.

Recent research indicates

The quality and quantity of talented members of the US STEM workforce has

been a subject of great interest to policy and decision makers for the past 40 years.

Recent research indicates that while there exist specific shortages in specific disciplines

and areas of expertise in the private sector and the federal government, there is no

noticeable shortage in any STEM academic discipline, but rather a surplus of PhDs

vying for increasingly scarce tenure track positions. Despite the seeming availability

of industry and private sector jobs, recent PhDs still struggle to find employment in

those areas. I argue that the decades old narrative suggesting a shortage of STEM

PhDs in the US poses a threat to the value of the natural science PhD, and that

this narrative contributes significantly to why so many PhDs struggle to find career

employment in their fields. This study aims to address the following question: what is

the value of a STEM PhD outside academia? I begin with a critical review of existing

literature, and then analyze programmatic documents for STEM PhD programs at

ASU, interviews with industry employers, and an examination the public face of value

for these degrees. I then uncover the nature of the value alignment, value disconnect,

and value erosion in the ecosystem which produces and then employs STEM PhDs,

concluding with specific areas which merit special consideration in an effort to increase

the value of these degrees for all stakeholders involved.

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Date Created
  • 2018