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PhDs job market

Key data on doctoral studies in Canada

Significant growth in the number of doctoral students

  • Growth rate: 113% between 2002 and 2017

Increased number of graduates

  • 2002: 3 723
  • 2010: 5 946
  • 2017: 7 947

Questioning post-PhD career prospects (in Canada and abroad)

"To make organizations of all types aware of how lucky they are to have a doctoral student among them. Provided of course that they are well prepared for a context that is not that of a "professor clone" in an academic environment".

What to do after a PhD?

Labour market for PhDs in Canada

Activity sectors After one year After five years
Teaching services 50% 47%
Professional, Scientific and Technical Services 9% 11 %
Public Administration 8% 10%
Health care and social assistance 8% 10%
The other sectors Less than 5 %

Unemployment rate of PhDs in Canada (findings 3 years after graduation - 2015 cohort)

Unemployement rate
Doctoral graduates 7%
Master's degree 4%
Bachelor's degree 6%

Job opportunities (international)

In Science

In the Humanities and Social Sciences

Canada's Economic Environment is not optimal for PhDs

  • Canada invests less in R&D 
  • R&D is more concentrated in the higher education sector
  • GERD as a share of GDP in 2018: 1.6% compared with 2.4% for the OECD as a whole and 2.8% for the United States.
  • Few opportunities in the private sector

- In 2011, only 18% of R&D performing companies (N~1000) reported hiring researchers with a Ph.

- Approximately 50% of Canada's exports consist of natural resource goods.

- The share of knowledge-based assets is stagnating at about 15%.

Employers perceptions

  • Perceived as overqualified but with inadequate skills, some private sector employers do not perceive the added value of the PhD

Institutional culture

  • The institutional culture and objectives of doctoral training seem to be out of step with those of the knowledge economy context (Nicholls, 2014; Usher, 2002).
  • This would have some influence on the way doctoral students construct their professional project and the skills they develop (Gardner et al., 2012; Gardner, 2010; Weidman et al., 2001).

Personal Challenges

  • Lack of knowledge of the labour market
  • Difficulties for graduates to identify and value the skills they have developed
  • Identity transactions

Redefine the objectives of doctoral training and review the method of evaluation of this training.

Review and adapt the type of research

  • Do more applied research with concrete impacts and outcomes.
    Reviewing doctoral training programs and adjusting them to today's world

Offer continuing or complementary training

  • Project Management
    Human resources management
    Managing emotions and interpersonal relationships
    The management of innovation processes within a company

Introduce mandatory internships in doctoral training

Learn how to better value the doctoral experience

  • The problem lies not in the fact of having done only research, but in how the PhD is able to make the most of this experience.

Download the presentation

Desjardins, L. (2012). Profil et résultats sur le marché du travail des titulaires de doctorat des universités de l’Ontario (Catalogue no. 81-595-M No. 098). Statistique Canada.

Desjardins, L. et King, D. (2011). Espérances et résultats sur le marché du travail des titulaires de doctorat des universités canadiennes (Catalogue no. 81-595-M No. 089). Statistique Canada.

Didiano, T. J., Wilkinson, L., Turner, J., Franklin, M., Anderson, J. H., Bussmann, M., Reeve, D. et Audet, J. (2019, juin). I have a PhD! Now what? A Program to prepare engineering PhDs and post-doctoral fellows for diverse career options [communication]. ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Tampa, Florida.

Edge, J. et Munro, D. (2015). Inside and Outside the Academy : Valuing and Preparing PHDs for Careers. The Conference Board of Canada.

Maldonado, V., Wiggers, R. et Arnold, C. (2013). So You Want to Earn a PhD? The Attraction, Realities, and Outcomes of Pursuing a Doctorate (Issue Paper No. 15). The Higher Education Quality Council of Ontario.

McAlpine, L. et Austin, N. (2018). Humanities PhD Graduates: Desperately Seeking Careers? Canadian Journal of Higher Education48(2), 1-19.

Porter, S., Mol, L., Locher, J. et Johnson, M. (2017). UBC PhD Career Outcomes: Graduates from 2005-2013 UBC Vancouver Campus [Rapport de recherche]. University of British Columbia.

Reithmeier, R., O’Leary, L., Zhu, X., Dales, C., Abdulkarim, A., Aquil, A., Brouillard, L., Chang, S., Miller, S., Shi, W., Vu, N., Zou, C. (2019). The 10,000 PhDs project at the University of Toronto: Using employment outcome data to inform graduate education. PLoS ONE, 14(1).

Your experience, your challenges, your successes, your strategies can help other doctoral students or PhDs. If you wish, you can submit a document (audio or video narration, etc.) that retraces your career path by clicking on the link below: