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The Value of a PhD Degree

VU International News and Reviews No. 111 April 23 2018

October 2019

A PhD degree is an almost certain employment guarantee, but for the majority, this will be outside Academia. This is the main conclusion of the report (in Dutch) on “The sense of obtaining a PhD”. The report was published by two researchers at the Rathenau Institute, a private non-profit institute researching societal dimensions of science, innovation and new technologies.

The report shows that 70% of PhDs in the Netherlands end up outside academia (universities and university hospitals. The number of PhDs in the Netherlands has increased tremendously in 25 years, from less than 2000 in 1991 to almost 5000 in 2016, with the strongest increase in the health field. There is a clear mismatch between the expectations and wishes of the PhDs and reality: 55% would like to stay in an academic setting, but slightly more than half of them (30%) actually succeed in that. But the overwhelming majority of PhDs does find a job: unemployment among PhDs is less than half the overall average unemployment rate in the Netherlands for the period analysed: 2% against 4,2%. And those working outside Academia don’t do so to their dissatisfaction: more than 80% value their PhD enough to say they would do it again (against 90% of those in Academia).

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