Supply of Ph.D.s fails to meet nationwide demand for technical, faculty jobs

December 09, 1990|By Carol Kleiman | Carol Kleiman,Chicago Tribune

CHICAGO -- The Graduate School of Management at Clark University in Worcester, Mass., wants to hire three faculty members for next year to teach operations management, accounting and organizational behavior.

Salaries for such jobs range from $48,000 to $58,000 nationally for faculty members with experience. Applicants must be able to do research, be good teachers and have strong human-relations skills.

And they must have doctoral degrees.

"There definitely is a shortage of available Ph.D.s," said Robert A. Ullrich, dean of the Clark graduate school. "There now are three jobs for every new graduate with a doctorate in management."

The growing scarcity of Ph.D.s is a nationwide problem. The number of doctoral graduates has remained steady at 32,000 for 10 years, but the demand is growing, according to the Association of American Universities in Washington.

The U.S. Education Department projects that 34,700 doctorates will be awarded annually by 1998, but that won't be enough to fill the technical jobs that will be created by then. Nor will there be enough Ph.D.s to replace openings left by the large number of retirements expected among aging college faculties in the coming decade.

And there are other problems. The National Academy of Sciences reports that only 16.9 percent of Ph.D.s became college teachers in 1988; in 1968, the figure was 28 percent. One reason for the decline may be that average starting salaries for Ph.D.s who become college teachers is below $30,000.

A 1989 survey of 465 schools by the university association indicated that by the turn of the century, there will be a shortage of 7,500 natural scientists and engineers with doctorates. There area already shortages of Ph.D.s in the humanities and social sciences.

The report found that half of 1987's doctorate recipients were working in non-academic fields, and it projected that over the next two decades, demand for new Ph.D.s by industry alone will increase to 7,400 annually from the current 3,600.

"There is strong evidence of substantial shortages in all Ph.D. markets -- in government, industry and in all major academic fields at colleges and universities," said John C. Vaughn of the university association. "In academia, the shortages will be earlier and more severe."

A major problem for doctoral students is tuition, which costs thousands of dollars over the six to 11 years usually required to earn a Ph.D., according to the university group. And the federal government has cut its support for doctoral students.

"In 1969, the U.S. funded 60,000 doctoral fellowships but now funds only 13,000, an extraordinary drop," said Mr. Vaughn, who has a doctorate in experimental psychology.

The University of Chicago has 2,900 doctoral students, each of whom pay $15,000 a year in tuition. Most receive financial aid, and those who teach are paid for that as well.

But the university, which has 650 Ph.D.s on its faculty, doesn't hire its own graduates immediately. "As our faculty retires, we want to replenish them with the next generation of scholars who are first-rate in their fields," said Allen R. Sanderson, associate provost. "But everyone's going after the same talent pool. The job market is tightening, and salaries are being bid up significantly."

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