Dismiss Notice
Join Physics Forums Today!
The friendliest, high quality science and math community on the planet! Everyone who loves science is here!

Ph.D Graduation Rates

  1. Apr 10, 2010 #1
    Are there sources that show the Ph.D graduation rates for physics or astronomy? Someone told me the drop out rate was around 50% on average.
    Last edited: Apr 10, 2010
  2. jcsd
  3. Apr 10, 2010 #2


    User Avatar

    It's hard to find actual numbers on this, probably because most schools don't want to advertise it. Top schools will have lower dropout rates; not because the classes are easier (they aren't) but because they got the top students who are very dedicated. Lower ranked programs have higher dropout rates - students who decide they don't want to do the work, can't do the work, are happy with a masters, fail the qualifying exam, don't get along with their adviser, get scooped and the department won't accept the work, don't ever quite manage to do the research or write it all up, get sick, family trouble, etc.

    My graduate class entered with 11 students all intending to do the PhD. Two left without masters, two earned masters and left, two switched departments, 1 got the PhD, another 2 of us might earn it this year, and two more are languishing; who knows if they'll finish or not. 3/11 isn't a great graduation rate, but the class a year ahead of us had 0/10 finish a PhD for one reason or another. The PhD program is fairly small and thus not high-ranked (also due to the large dropout/fail rate, but I like to think at least part of that is because while the standards for getting in might not be all that high, staying in is harder) but it is a top public university overall.
  4. Apr 10, 2010 #3

    Vanadium 50

    User Avatar
    Staff Emeritus
    Science Advisor
    Education Advisor
    2017 Award

    It's also hard to define "dropout rate". If a student changes departments and earns a PhD there, did he drop out? What if he transfers schools? To a lower ranked one? If he transferred because his advisor moved?

    If he does all of these things, how many times do you count it?
  5. Apr 10, 2010 #4
    I think it's very school dependent, which means averages don't matter. At my alma matter, the Ph.D. dropout rate in astronomy was no more than about 10%, and this was because they wouldn't admit you if they had the slightest doubt that you'd finish the program. Also, in the same school, different departments are often totally, totally different worlds.

    I think if you look at the AIP data, you can probably figure out the numbers. They have number admitted and graduation numbers and you might be able to figure out something from that.
Share this great discussion with others via Reddit, Google+, Twitter, or Facebook