Where are Australia’s PhD students?
“A PhD is an endeavour in itself and curious minds embarking on the journey of getting one have certainly gone through a truly transformational experience,” says Dr Anastasia Volkova, CEO & Co-Founder of Flurosat who also has a PhD in Aeronautical Engineering.
The Australian PhD space has suffered from a persistent lack of data on graduate aims and outcomes. CSIRO Data61’s Ribit.net, Australia’s leading job-matching platform for university students, has partnered with the Australian Mathematical Sciences Institute (AMSI) to uncover where our PhD graduates are – and where they want to be.
The new report, Advancing Australia’s Knowledge Economy: Who are the top PhD employers?, was published earlier this month.
PhDs are on the rise
Annual PhD completions have more than doubled in the last two decades. In Australia, the number has grown from under 4,000 per annum in the year 2000, to around 10,000 per annum today.
The catch is that there simply aren’t enough jobs for all PhD graduates in the Higher Education and Research Sector, although opportunities abound elsewhere. With the steep rise in PhD graduations and growing demand within the private and public sectors for innovative capability, appointments at universities are no longer the only career option.
In fact, the total number of PhD graduates has outnumbered the number of academic jobs available in Australia since the mid-1990s and the gap has continued to widen ever since.
The career opportunities for PhDs are expanding. As Dr Volkova puts it: “Planning and executing a project as large as a doctorate requires skills similar to the ones that modern industry needs: innovation, agility, desire to be relevant and keep up with state-of-the-art if not to define it!”
Beyond academia: PhDs find footing across government and industry
A growing percentage of PhD graduates are finding employment in businesses, government and the non-profit sector. 19 out of the 20 largest ASX-listed companies now have PhD graduates among their senior executive teams.
The tides are changing as just over half of current Australian PhD students (51 per cent) who responded to our national survey hope to leave academia and work in business or the public sector once they graduate.
Bridging the gap between research and industry
The Australian business sectors that employ the most PhDs are banking, finance and insurance, followed by mining, oil and energy and the medical and pharmaceutical industry.
In the public sector, the main area of PhD employment is hospitals and health care, while in the business sector the medical and pharmaceutical industry ranks third. Together these sectors employ the most PhD degree holders outside of academia.
While employment in existing growth sectors including finance and mining is strong, PhD skills are also helping grow emerging sectors – including media and the green economy – which are employing significant numbers.
There is a real opportunity to bridge the gap between research and industry. If you’re an employer, post a job for free on Ribit.net and hire talent students.