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Professional integration of PhDs remains difficult

René-Luc Bénichou (translation by Cynthia Schoch)

The initial findings of the CEREQ's Génération 2004 survey that takes a snapshot of the career situation in 2007 of university graduates in 2004, shows that it is still difficult for PhDs to integrate the job market.

First indicator of this difficulty: the unemployment rate, which remains abnormally high three years after being awarded their doctorate (11% in literature and human sciences, 10% in mathematics, sciences and technology). Abnormal, because as the survey shows, the higher the qualifications, the more the unemployment rate should drop. Except for PhDs, who have the sorry privilege of less professional integration than holders of a research masters (unemployment rate after three years of 7% in liberal arts, 5% in the sciences) or a professional masters (6% in liberal arts, 5% in sciences).

Second indicator: the proportion of PhDs who, three years after receiving their degree, are still on short-term contracts (32% in literature and human sciences, 38% in mathematics, sciences and technology). There again, the comparison with holders of a master's degree is ruthless, whether they have a research masters (31% of liberal arts short-term contracts, 30% in the sciences) or a professional one (27% of liberal arts short-term contracts, 22% in the sciences).

Dreams and reality
Lastly, the CEREQ (1) gives a third indicator that, although it doesn't explain everything, nevertheless sheds light to help better understand these anomalies. It so happens that with the exception of graduates of special programs designed to pursue a public sector career (university teacher training institutes, for instance), it is PhDs, of all the higher education graduates, that in the highest proportion join the public sector (64% in literature and human sciences, 50% in mathematics, sciences and technology, whereas this percentage is only 33% for all university graduates).

In other words, the combination of these various indicators shows that there is still, for PhDs a gap between the dream of pursuing a career in the university or the various research institutes and the number of permanent jobs that are actually available.

(1) Centre d'études et de recherches sur les qualifications

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