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Presentation of some findings on the situation of PhDs in the Canadian labour market. Barriers to their hiring and some illustrations from international sources that highlight the similarity of this issue in several OECD countries.
Doctoral training and professional perspectives
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?
Job opportunities and unemployment rate
Labour market for PhDs in Canada
|Activity sectors||After one year||After five years|
|Professional, Scientific and Technical Services||9%||11 %|
|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)
Job opportunities (international)
In the Humanities and Social Sciences
Barriers to the employability of PhDs
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%.
- Perceived as overqualified but with inadequate skills, some private sector employers do not perceive the added value of the PhD
- 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).
- Lack of knowledge of the labour market
- Difficulties for graduates to identify and value the skills they have developed
- Identity transactions
Avenues for reflection and action
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.
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. https://www150.statcan.gc.ca/n1/pub/81-595-m/81-595-m2012098-fra.pdf
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. https://www150.statcan.gc.ca/n1/pub/81-595-m/81-595-m2011089-fra.pdf
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. https://peer.asee.org/32910
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. https://heqco.ca/pub/issue-paper-no-15-so-you-want-to-earn-a-phd-the-attraction-realities-and-outcomes-of-pursuing-a-doctorate/
McAlpine, L. et Austin, N. (2018). Humanities PhD Graduates: Desperately Seeking Careers? Canadian Journal of Higher Education, 48(2), 1-19. https://doi.org/10.7202/1057100ar
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. https://outcomes.grad.ubc.ca/docs/UBC_PhD_Career_Outcomes_April2017.pdf
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). https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0209898
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: