In the last 25 years, the number of people getting PhDs has more than doubled. Some five thousand people received a PhD in 2016, up from some two thousand in 1991, a study conducted by the Rathenau Institute shows. Nearly everyone with a doctorate ends up finding a job; just 2 per cent of PhD holders are unemployed.

The figures do vary across the various disciplines. People with PhDs in language/culture and natural science are twice as likely to be unemployed (3.3% and 3.1% respectively) as their colleagues working in agriculture (1.2%) and healthcare (1.6%).

Number of jobs cannot keep up with number of doctorates awarded

Previous research conducted by the Rathenau Institute and Promovendi Netwerk Nederland (Dutch PhD Students’ Network) showed that over half of PhD students aspire to a job in academia, but the number of academic positions available cannot keep up with the number of doctorates being awarded.

The Rathenau Institute’s study once again confirmed this. Only 30 per cent of PhD holders find a job at a university or academic medical centre. The remaining 70 per cent tend to work as researchers at consultancies or engineering companies, where they will incidentally earn €7,000 more on average than they would at a university.

Highly appreciated

“Getting a PhD is not something you do exclusively to embark on an academic career,” says Melanie Peters, the Director of the Rathenau Institute. “In our present-day knowledge society, getting a PhD is often a way to prepare for a job in which the knowledge and research skills acquired by PhD holders are highly appreciated.”