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An NCT and then what?

Maïté Brunel, Evelyne Jardin & C. Schoch

Does the "new chapter in the thesis" (NCT), a skill-enhancement tool offered by the Association Bernard Gregory for PhD candidates in the last year their thesis, have an impact on their professional integration?  In an attempt to see clearly, young PhDs answered a questionnaire.

What sort of first jobs are there after the thesis?  70% of the PhDs who undertook an NCT and answered our questionnaire are under a short-term contract for their first job.  No great shakes?  In a survey conducted by the IREDU*, this is the case for 24% of them three years after defending their thesis.  Instability is and remains at a desperately high level.  Furthermore, things unfortunately change very, very slowly, particularly for PhDs in chemistry, life sciences and earth sciences.  In 2006, 34% and 38% of the PhDs in these disciplines respectively were still employed on a short-term basis three years after defending a thesis, again according to the IREDU figures.  What explains this situation? According to the survey pertaining to NCT PhDs, these "unstable intellectuals" are either graduate teaching fellows (ATERs in France), or researchers doing a post-doctorate in France or abroad.  They hare thus decided to tackle the rough road in hopes of getting a job in public research at the end of the tunnel.  

An NCT effect?
Besides these public research-oriented NCT PhDs is another minority group, this one aiming for the private sector.  What are its salient characteristics?  66% of the PhDs in this group are hired on a long-term basis right from their first job (as opposed to 10% of the PhDs employed in the public sector). Most of them work in research and development jobs for an average gross annual starting salary of 35,000 €.  80% of them say they are satisfied, even very satisfied with their career situation. Lastly, they landed a job quickly because 40% of them had secured a position before even defending their thesis.  For these PhDs who turn toward the private sector early on, it would appear that the NCT had an effect on the speed with which they found their first job.  How's that? The further skills acquired by the very fact of completing an NCT, combined with exploration of the market prior to the defense, naturally gives them a head start in their job search.  For the group of PhDs engaged on the academic path, the NCT does not act as an accelerator in this way because the road to a career (with a teaching fellowship followed by a postdoc as mandatory stopovers) is largely traced out before them.

* : Patrick Montjourides & Julien Calmand, “Docteurs, génération 2003,” IREDU, January 2007.
* : “Origine des enseignants-chercheurs recrutés lors de la campagne 2006,” Ministère de la Recherche, December 2006. Download the file from ftp://trf.education.gouv.fr/pub/edutel/personnel/enssup/orig2006.pdf