Former Ph.D. Students Reflect on Why They Jumped Ship

Whether it’s the bleakness of the academic job market, the price of an advanced degree, or the difficulty in finding the right faculty advisor, students don’t have too much trouble finding a reason to flee their doctoral programs. And they’re doing so at a pretty steady pace.

The Council of Graduate Schools confirmed this a few years back with its Ph.D. Completion Project, which tracked 9,000 doctoral students among 30 institutions from the early ’90s through 2004. The CGS data is now dated—it doesn’t factor in years of economic recession and shifts in the academic job market—but many of the findings remain relevant today.

Among the key ones: About 57 percent of the students who started doctoral programs in the ’90s completed within 10 years. Roughly 30 percent dropped out altogether.

As you might expect, the highest rates of attrition come in the first two years. “At that time, we see students getting familiar with and adjusting to doctoral study,” says Robert Sowell, the council’s vice president of programs and operations. <Read more.>

Via Syndi Dunn, The Chronicle of Higher Education Vitae.