In my experience, getting an honest, straightforward answer about the post-PhD labor market from most professors in graduate school is about as easy as extracting teeth from the mouth of a sparrow. Even when an answer is forthcoming, it is too often clouded by unrealistic expectations about the types of careers graduate students want and / or attempts to boost morale in order to increase research productivity.
Fortunately, no less an authority than the National Science Foundation has been conducting rigorous, nationally representative surveys on the US PhD labor market since 1993. On top of that, the NSF has made the results from its biannual surveys open to the public, both in the form of raw data and in the form of summary statistics. For a quantitative geek like me, the data are a little slice of heaven.
Thus, both to satisfy my own curiosity and for the benefit of other people who want hard data about PhD labor outcomes, I created the following six graphs with the goal of answering common questions about the STEM PhD labor market. I will structure my graphs around three questions in particular:
(1) How successful are PhDs at finding the jobs they want?
(2) Where do PhDs go for their jobs and what do they do on the job?
(3) How well compensated are PhDs for the work they do?