10,000 PhDs: Where Are They Now?
Professor Allan Kaplan
In summer 2016, eight undergraduate students began searching for job information on U of T doctoral alumni. In just six months — mining public websites — they compiled a remarkable trove: detailed employment data on 10,000 PhDs granted since 2000.
Results from the project, which was the brainchild of the Dean of the School of Graduate Studies at the time, Professor Locke Rowe, and was supervised by Biochemistry Professor Reinhart Reithmeier, were fascinating: almost all students who graduated were working, half were women and two-thirds lived in Canada.
But perhaps the most remarkable finding was that less than one-third of these PhDs held tenure-track positions in academia, while the rest were employed in a wide variety of fields.
“This data was transformational,” says Professor Allan Kaplan, Vice Dean of Graduate and Academic Affairs in the Faculty of Medicine. “It gave us hard evidence, for the first time, on exactly what our graduates are doing — and what we should be doing to train our students for these alternative careers.”
The study showed that Faculty of Medicine PhDs contribute to many sectors of the economy: private (18 per cent); public (16 per cent) and charitable (4 per cent). Almost two-thirds of those in the private sector are in biotech and pharma, but many work in banking and finance, law, engineering, marketing and communications and other industries.
The Faculty’s immediate goal, says Kaplan, is to provide doctoral students with skills they’ll need in academic as well as non-academic workplaces — critical thinking, conflict management and leadership, among others — while offering more job-ready training based on greater input from employers.
Longer term, Medicine will create individualized training pathways for each student. “We will continue to train future academics,” says Kaplan. “But we also want to graduate multi-skilled innovators who can contribute across the new economy.”