What kinds of jobs can I get with a Ph.D.?

Sachiko Matsumoto

With a Ph.D. in CS, you will qualified for a wide range of tech jobs, including all of those that you could get with a masters degree. The data bears this out and shows that the vast majority of Ph.D. graduates find employment after graduating. The (2019 Taulbee survey, Table D4) found that less than 1% of new Ph.D.s reported being unemployed, though 27% of Ph.D.s employment status was unknown. About 15% of participants had a postdoc position (in industry or academia). Other grads work in industry (59%), academic positions (22%), and government (2%), as well as other types of positions.

NC State has some published some data about where their Ph.D.s get jobs. Duke has some data too. I would expect numbers to be similar for other good Ph.D. programs.

Jobs in Academia

There are many job opportunities for Ph.D.s. Most of these jobs either require a Ph.D. or take a long time to get without one. For instance, most professorships require a Ph.D. Similarly, if you want to lead a research team and guide projects in industry, you may need a Ph.D.. Some people do a postdoc immediately after graduating. Otherwise, two useful categories for thinking about jobs are academia and industry, though other options exist.

Within an academic track, there are several options. Some people choose to take teaching professorships, which focus on teaching rather than research. Other positions, such as tenured or tenure-track positions, will focus more on doing research.

Jobs in Industry

With a Ph.D. you are qualified for any job that might requires an master degree. You will also have a “leg up” in jobs that involve key research skills like seeing the big picture, identifying and framing important problems, and communicating with others.

There are also industry jobs that generally require an Ph.D. For instance, some companies host research groups to do advance research and development.

In North America, around 57% of grads reported having research positions, and around 31% reported having non-research positions. Many large companies (like Facebook, Google, Microsoft, etc.) have research divisions that hire Ph.D.s. Some people also choose to work at smaller startups.

What Job Should you Choose?

There are a few considerations when choosing between academic and industry positions. Industry positions tend to have higher pay compared to academic positions. For instance, pay in industry positions typically ranges from about $90,000 for research scientists to $194,000 for chief data scientists (data) , with an average around $122,000.

Academic pay typically ranges from around $72,000 for some instructors to $160,000 for new full professors (note that salaries can vary a lot between institutions), according to the Taulbee Survery, and less than 10% of Ph.D. graduates end up with tenure-track positions.

Academic jobs are also pretty competitive. In 2018-2019, there were 1,039 vacant academic positions (including post-doc positions), whereas there were 1,860 Ph.D.s awarded in 2019.

Will I Be Over-qualified with a Ph.D.?

No, at least not in a way that will hurt you. There may be some hiring managers who might feel this way, but on balance having a Ph.D. opens many more doors than it closes. The Ph.D. employment statistics in the Taulbee Survey (above) make that pretty clear. Also, you’d probalby be bored doing those jobs.

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