Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Update on the academic astronomy job market

From the Women in Astronomy blog comes Hannah's summary of the employment session of the winter American Astronomical Society meeting.  Wow:

Ulvestad estimated that the ratio of new PhDs to faculty openings was about 4:1, based on AAS membership data. If you counted non-university positions, it came up to closer to 2:1. Beckwith said that in steady state, the U of C system should be hiring about 7 astronomy faculty every year, but failed to mention anything about current and future hiring freezes until pressed during the question session.
Beckwith also had the audacity to tell a room full of young scientists, half of whom would likely leave astronomy, that our outlook is positive, that our PhDs would serve us well in jobs outside astronomy also. He gave an anecdote about his daughter who was an artist, and was waiting tables to make a living. To which one at least one person noted that she hadn't spend 12 years in school in order to wait tables.
That factor of 2-to-1 is roughly consistent with the numbers in this recent whitepaper by A. Seth et al.


dr. dave said...

Curious what counts as "job openings" in this statistic. Just straight astro positions? Physics positions at a SLAC that include astronomy teaching? CC physical science positions? If it DOESN'T include such things then there are a few options for the other 3/4 of graduates that may be slightly more fulfilling than waiting tables.

Stephen said...

It is obvious that 2:1 is overoptimistic. I would estimate that a typical physics or astronomy professor produces about 10 PhDs over the course of a career. At steady state, one will take his or her place upon retirement. The other 9 will have to get jobs other than tenure track academia. One needn't do any serious statistics gathering.