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Hence, the three areas of primary employment for PhD scientists and engineers—universities and colleges, industry, and government—are experiencing simultaneous change. The total effect is likely to be vastly more consequential for the employment of scientists and engineers than any previous period of transition has been. Some believe that the nation's teaching institutions are entering a period when the number of new PhDs should somehow be capped (we return to this point later). Although many recent graduates are frustrated by their inability to find basic-research positions, it appears that the growth in nonresearch and applied research and development positions is large enough to absorb most graduates. However, such employers complain that new PhDs are often too specialized for the range of tasks that they will confront and that they have a difficult time in adapting to the demands of nonacademic work.

A broader concern is that we have not, as a nation, paid adequate attention to the function of the graduate schools in meeting the country's varied needs for scientists and engineers. There is no clear human-resources policy for advanced scientists and engineers, so their education is largely a byproduct of policies that support research. The simplifying assumption has apparently been that the primary mission of graduate programs is to produce the next generation of academic researchers. In view of the broad range of ways in which scientists and engineers contribute to national needs, it is time to review how they are educated to do so.

The approach that is presented in this report is based on reshaping the current PhD experience and improving students' ability to make good career choices. Alternative approaches were examined during the study but were not endorsed. One would be to control graduate enrollments directly, presumably on the basis of expected employment needs. Among the problems with this approach are the questionable reliability of employment forecasts and the practical difficulty of implementing it. Another strategy would be to create a new type of degree—a ''different doctorate," perhaps—that entails less intensive research experience and is intended to prepare students for nonresearch careers. Employers told us, however, that they value the requirement for original research that is a hallmark of the PhD, and we see little demand for a hybrid degree. Our approach, we believe, will make the current system self-adjusting at a time when change is certain but the nature of the change cannot be predicted.


The process of graduate education is highly effective in preparing students whose careers will focus on academic research. It must continue this excellence to maintain the strength of our national science and technology enterprise. But graduate education must also serve better the needs of those whose careers will not center on research. More than half of new graduates with PhDs—and much more than half in some fields, such as chemistry and engineering—now find work in nonacademic settings. This fraction has been growing steadily for 2 decades.

We recommend that the graduate-education enterprise—particularly at the department

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