Miss or match? The impact of PhD training on job market satisfaction.

Cornelia Lawson, Cindy Lopes-Bento

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Being satisfied on the job is vital to be productive and to contribute to society. This paper adds to our current understanding of the job market for academics by investigating job satisfaction of PhD holders leaving academia for the private or non-academic public sector (government, public administration) compared to those who remain in university or public research center positions. We investigate whether a PhD matters for satisfaction by comparing PhD holders and PhD dropouts who hold similar motivations and ‘taste’ for science. Empirically we rely on a unique survey of PhD grant applicants (funded and not) and show that about half of PhD graduates leave academia. In endogenous treatment effects models accounting for selection into sector, we find that despite a preference for the academic sector, PhDs do not experience lower job satisfaction when employed outside of academia and that overall satisfaction is highest in the non-academic public sector. We further find that PhD graduates are happier in their jobs than those that do not complete a PhD, a finding that is mediated by the job content (i.e. the relatedness of the employment to a research activity). These findings are of relevance to employers and policy makers, as they inform about job match of graduates and the value of pursuing a PhD across employment sectors.
Original languageEnglish
Article number104945
JournalResearch Policy
Issue number3
Early online date18 Jan 2024
Publication statusPublished - 1 Apr 2024


  • Taste for science
  • Career choices
  • Motivation
  • Satisfaction

Research Beacons, Institutes and Platforms

  • Manchester Institute of Innovation Research


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