Future prospects for the incoming class of PhD students

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With the economy in the dumps, a lot of grad schools this year seemed to be taking significantly smaller than normal incoming class sizes (at least in math, where I was applying; for instance, I was told the University of Minnesota was taking on only 30% of their normal amount of incoming math PhD students). Do you think there will be any payoff for those members of this smaller class of grad students in having less competition for jobs/postdocs when we leave with our PhDs (assuming, of course, that the economy recovers at least somewhat in the next few years, so that there could in theory be a disproportionately high ratio of openings to job seekers)? Or is there really no such thing as an "entry-level" postdoc, so any benefit from a decrease in competition would be shared equally by those receiving their PhDs in the years before we do? Of course, I am probably just trying to read too far into the whole situation, but if this really was an abnormally difficult year to get into grad school, it seems those of us who got in had to leap an extra hurdle, and it would be sweet if somehow somehow we got rewarded sometime in the future.
 

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With the economy in the dumps, a lot of grad schools this year seemed to be taking significantly smaller than normal incoming class sizes (at least in math, where I was applying; for instance, I was told the University of Minnesota was taking on only 30% of their normal amount of incoming math PhD students). Do you think there will be any payoff for those members of this smaller class of grad students in having less competition for jobs/postdocs when we leave with our PhDs (assuming, of course, that the economy recovers at least somewhat in the next few years, so that there could in theory be a disproportionately high ratio of openings to job seekers)? Or is there really no such thing as an "entry-level" postdoc, so any benefit from a decrease in competition would be shared equally by those receiving their PhDs in the years before we do? Of course, I am probably just trying to read too far into the whole situation, but if this really was an abnormally difficult year to get into grad school, it seems those of us who got in had to leap an extra hurdle, and it would be sweet if somehow somehow we got rewarded sometime in the future.
Hmm, that's very interesting because undergrad applications were at an all time high this year, and the classes are a little bigger than those of last year.
 
  • #3
j93
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Hmm, that's very interesting because undergrad applications were at an all time high this year, and the classes are a little bigger than those of last year.
Thats your recession college experience, less TA's and more students.
 
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mgb_phys
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Don't worry - all the retiring professors will create a huge demand for up and coming researches and the modern high tech economy will cause a huge demand for scientific researchers. (That's what the told us about 20 years ago)
 
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quasar987
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(That's what the told us about 20 ears ago)
The what?
 
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What about the ever increasing lifespans of professors? =P
 
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mgb_phys
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The what?
Sorry the Y key is now dying on my laptop as well as the 'D'!

I don't know if profs are living longer - but I do know that universities have discovered that post-docs are more cost effective.

In good institutes there are more people than projects/money so you are eternally doing feasability studies or proposals rather than research. In bad places you are just a cheap teaching aid.
 
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ZapperZ
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With the economy in the dumps, a lot of grad schools this year seemed to be taking significantly smaller than normal incoming class sizes (at least in math, where I was applying; for instance, I was told the University of Minnesota was taking on only 30% of their normal amount of incoming math PhD students). Do you think there will be any payoff for those members of this smaller class of grad students in having less competition for jobs/postdocs when we leave with our PhDs (assuming, of course, that the economy recovers at least somewhat in the next few years, so that there could in theory be a disproportionately high ratio of openings to job seekers)? Or is there really no such thing as an "entry-level" postdoc, so any benefit from a decrease in competition would be shared equally by those receiving their PhDs in the years before we do? Of course, I am probably just trying to read too far into the whole situation, but if this really was an abnormally difficult year to get into grad school, it seems those of us who got in had to leap an extra hurdle, and it would be sweet if somehow somehow we got rewarded sometime in the future.
Let's say that it takes you 5 years to finish your Ph.D. If the current trend in funding by the Obama Administration continues (doubling in funding for NSF and DOE's Office of Science), then I'd say the future looks so bright, you have to wear shades!

There are already indications that things are in a significantly better shape in the physical sciences than ALL of the Bush's Administration years put together. Projects that have been put on hold or had to simply be dropped (even after approval) are going back on track. Postdocs are being hired left and right because of increase in funding. Facilities such as CEBAF at JLab, and NSLS II at Brookhaven are put on the fast track for completion, which means that they will be open for business by the time you are done. And if the recent speed by Obama at the National Academy of Sciences is any indications, there will be a continued upward trend in funding for the sciences, even in basic physics.

Zz.
 
  • #10
mgb_phys
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Alternatively a bunch of expensive military projects will be transferred from Boeing back to Darpa who will then contract Boeing to do the work - on paper a boost in science funding and a cut in defence spending.
Universities will use the extra funding to refill their endowments (call it overhead/infrastructure charges)
Government science funding will go to cute/voter friendly topics. Kids with cancer or Higgs bosons? - the focus groups decide.

All the undergrads that couldn't get jobs will hit grad school - so in 3-5 years a there will be a glut of them and a PhD will become the entry level requirement for science jobs.

On the other hand I haven't had enough coffee this morning - so I might just be grumpy.
 
  • #11
ZapperZ
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Alternatively a bunch of expensive military projects will be transferred from Boeing back to Darpa who will then contract Boeing to do the work - on paper a boost in science funding and a cut in defence spending.
Universities will use the extra funding to refill their endowments (call it overhead/infrastructure charges)
Government science funding will go to cute/voter friendly topics. Kids with cancer or Higgs bosons? - the focus groups decide.

All the undergrads that couldn't get jobs will hit grad school - so in 3-5 years a there will be a glut of them and a PhD will become the entry level requirement for science jobs.

On the other hand I haven't had enough coffee this morning - so I might just be grumpy.
Unlike your speculation, what I wrote is actually happening now. We (as in my group and my division) are hiring right now, not only at the postdoc level, but also engineers and technicians. And from what I have seen, other places are doing almost the same thing, if not more.

Zz.
 

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