President Obama, like a lot of politicians and pundits, likes to say that America's future lies with science, advocating for more young people to go into research. But the truth is that the supply of PhDs has been vastly outpacing the job market for years, resulting in a glut, reports the Washington Post. "Anyone who goes into science expecting employers to clamor for their services will be deeply disappointed," says the editor of ScienceCareers.
And that's no surprise for Tim Price, who, writing at the Next New Deal, looks at decades of budget cuts and anti-intellectualism and says it's a no-brainer that it was the Swiss, and not the Americans, who last week found proof of the Higgs boson. Physicists and physicians are holding their own, the Post notes, with unemployment rates under 2%, but just 14% of new PhDs in biology and life sciences get an academic position within five years of graduating. And although the unemployment rate for PhD grads overall is lower than the national average, that's because many work outside of their fields or as lowly paid post-docs. Pharmaceutical companies, the old fall-back position for PhDs, have slashed 300,000 jobs in the United States since 2000. "It's been a bloodbath, it’s been awful," said one recently laid-off researcher. "Very good chemists with PhDs from Stanford can't find jobs." (Read more science stories.)