This is where PhD students often work (it is not science)

One-third of all people with a doctorate work in university education or in a university medical center, according to a survey by the Central Bureau of Statistics (CBS). 66 percent of PhD students work outside of academia.

“Some aspire to work within the academic world and want to do research or teach themselves. There is also a group that does not want to do this or finds it a challenge outside the academic world,” says Tanja Traag, researcher at Statistics Netherlands.

There is also a group of PhD students who want to, but cannot. Because they cannot find a job within academia. For example because there are not enough research places or because the competition is fierce.

Of the PhD graduates without a scientific job, 17 percent would prefer to have such a job.

Technical angle

Technical graduates in particular often work outside the academic world. Almost eight in ten will eventually do something else. “Also in agriculture, veterinary medicine and animal care they often have no work in academia,” says Traag.

She sees that PhD students are in demand. “There is increasing awareness in the business community that a doctorate is a very valuable addition. And a relatively large part ends up in a government position, where there is a need for very specialist knowledge.”

Record number of PhD students

The number of people obtaining a PhD has never been so high, according to the figures from Statistics Netherlands.

In the academic year of 1990/1991, 1,900 people obtained their PhD. In 2018/2019 there were just over 5000.

“The increase meets a need: the Netherlands as a knowledge economy”, says Traag. “The policy has been formulated in such a way that there is a need for people who specialize, that there is innovation and that specific knowledge and skills are retained for the Netherlands.”

Remarkable: the number of female PhD students has grown even faster than the number of men in recent years.

Gros ends up in healthcare

Most of all PhD graduates end up in health care (27 percent) and education (26 percent).

This is especially the case for women, especially within healthcare, the figures show. Within education, the ratio is slightly more balanced.

Many PhD graduates work in industries such as research, public administration and government services, and management and technical advice. The most common professions are professor, higher education teacher and medical specialist.


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