Marcia McNutt

Last month, the U.S. National Science Foundation (NSF) released a report* with some grim news that confirmed what is painfully obvious to recent Ph.D. graduates in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) fields: Unemployment for this cohort is on the rise (at 2.4% in 2010, up nearly a percentage point since 2008). Although it remains below the U.S. national average for all workers (8.2%), for bright students who have invested many years in specialized education and training, the outlook is discouraging. Furthermore, according to an NSF survey, in 2008 only 16% of Ph.D.'s in science, engineering, and health fields held positions in academia within 3 years of earning a doctorate.† Prospects for employment can be improved, however, for STEM Ph.D.'s who make a concerted effort to learn about positions outside the lab and prepare themselves for alternative paths.