Where Ph.D.s pay off

In 2001, almost 575,000 men and women who had earned doctoral degrees in the United States were employed full-or part-time in science and engineering—up more than 18 percent from 1995, according to a new National Science Foundation (NSF) survey.

Inflation-adjusted salaries in government and industry grew by 10 percent during the 6 years, but by only 4 percent in academia, according to Thomas B. Hoffer of NORC, a survey-research organization at the University of Chicago. Industry tended to pay its doctoral employees most: an average of $92,000 per year for full-time workers. Academics earned the least: $63,000. In 2001, the most recent year for which data are available, about 45 percent of scientists and engineers with doctoral degrees were employed in industry, and another 45 percent in education. Most of the remaining 10 percent work in government.

Differences in salary raises proved especially dramatic between disciplines. Ph.D.s in the life and social sciences saw little or no salary gains beyond inflation during the 6-year period whether they worked in government, industry, or academia. Average incomes for these Ph.D.s were no more than $70,000 per year. In contrast, engineering and physical science salaries rose 8 to 11 percent between 1995 and 2001, averaging between $83,000 and $91,000 in the different sectors. Hoffer summarizes the survey findings in the NSF InfoBrief newsletter.

Janet Raloff is the Editor, Digital of Science News Explores, a daily online magazine for middle school students. She started at Science News in 1977 as the environment and policy writer, specializing in toxicology. To her never-ending surprise, her daughter became a toxicologist.

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