PhD Ten Years Later

The PhDs—Ten Years Later study surveyed nearly 6,000 PhDs who completed their graduate education between 1983 and 1985 from 61 doctoral granting institutions across the United States. Six disciplines were chosen to represent major fields of study: life science, engineering, humanities, physical science, and social science. Respondents completed a 22-page questionnaire that focused on their employment history, the job search process, as well as factors that influenced their decisions to accept first and current positions, retrospective evaluations of their doctoral programs, and the usefulness of the PhD. The survey had a response rate of 66 percent for domestic PhDs and 52 percent for international PhDs.  The study was funded by the Andrew Mellon Foundation and the National Science Foundation. it was endorsed by the Council of Graduate Schools (CGS) and the American Association of Universities (AAU).

The PhDs-Ten Years Later survey, designed by Maresi Nerad and a team of  Berkeley Graduate Disivion  research staff.   Past Graduate Dean Joseph Cerny, and Nerad were co-PIs on the study which was developed in order to collect information on the career paths of doctorate holders and to examine the feasibility of assessing doctoral programs in terms of the career outcomes of their graduates.  As such, this study was the first national survey that asked students to retrospectively evaluate their doctoral programs and the usefulness of their PhDs in light of their careers. It was also the first survey that collected career-path information up to a period of 10+ years. A timeframe of over ten years assures that most graduates have settled into more stable and permanent employment because some fields practically require a postdoctoral appointment. (In biochemistry the average time PhD recipients spend in postdoctoral appointment is 3.9 years.)

Findings Focus On:

  1. An analysis of career paths including information on postdoctoral appointments and their role in career advancement, and specific employment patterns of women and minorities;
  2. Relationships between types of institutions attended and subsequent career paths;
  3. Factors that influence the decision of international doctoral recipients to remain in the United States or to return home; 
  4. An investigation of the career paths of dual career couples and the effects of marriage and children on career advancement; 
  5. Measurement of job satisfaction and how PhDs value their education education; A comprehensive retrospective evaluation of many aspects of doctoral programs across the six selected field and types of universities. 

Researchers: Joseph Cerny, Professor and Graduate Dean 1985-2000, University of California, Berkeley; Maresi Nerad, Director of Graduate Research, University of California, Berkeley, Graduate Division


Aanerud, R., Homer L, Rudd, E., Morrison, E, Nerad M., & Cerny,J. 2007.  Widening the Lens on Gender and Tenure: Looking beyond the Academic Labor Market. NWSA Journal. 19:3

Download: Widening the Lens on Gender and Tenure