Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Where did we come from?

And by "we" I mean all of us trying to get our PhD in the biomedical sciences:

Back in the 70s and 80s, we were floating along nice and constant-like.  Then, poof, government investment and away we went.  (Then the government investment flatlined [or never really materialized] and the academic jobs dried up - but that's another story for another day.)

So where did we all come from?

Here's my totally made-up-data way of visualizing that question:

Two (reasonable?) assumptions:
  • The total size of the pie increases with time (increased population and all that)
  • The relative portion that is attempting graduate school is also increasing
Then to restate my question: What careers are all the folks in the green chunk of the pie pursuing?

Are they really doing the "alt-careers" that all of us now consider, knowing the odds of landing an academic job are so low?  In the '70s and '80s, was there really a higher proportion of science writers, consultants, industry technicians, and high-school science teachers?  Industry was smaller then, bio-based consulting surely was nonexistent and I can't imagine science teachers have declined.  Science writing has taken a hit, but that's been more recent.

Looking back, medicine would have been the biggest career alternative for most of us.  However, their numbers have held constant while ours have risen, which I suppose means that getting into med school has gotten easier over the past decade.  Or maybe there's such an oversupply of people wanting to be doctors that average admit rates haven't been affected?

Sheesh, what do all the failed MD applicants end up doing with their lives??


I guess the real way of answering this question is to look at career outcomes for bio majors over time.  Yet those data seem to not like being readily googleable.  So who knows.

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