Flashback 20 years ago to little Janey’s first day at kindergarten: She was bright-eyed and filled with dreams. She could be a scientist, a writer, a builder….
Fast-forward back to the present, for Janey’s first day as a graduate student: Her eyes are now filled with dread and uncertainty about her future. Janey loves her field of study, but she knows that the years when a PhD was the ticket to a professorship at a prestigious research institution are as long gone as those joyful days of finger painting and puddle splashing.
As the number of graduate students across North America skyrocketed over the past decade – with Ontario graduate enrollments alone doubling from about 10,000 to 20,000 – competition for the increasingly scarce full-time, tenure-stream faculty positions has become fierce. For example, in 2007 Canadian universities granted nearly 5,000 PhDs and another 6,000 recent PhDs were conducting postdoctoral research; but that year, only about 2,600 new full-time faculty members were hired at Canadian universities. It’s now estimated that at most one out of every four PhDs will end up in full-time university faculty positions, with the vast majority of doctoral students finding employment elsewhere.