Public Release: 

Job outlook brightens for earth science graduates

American Geophysical Union

Washington - Nearly two-thirds of 1999 Ph.D. graduates in earth and space sciences took permanent jobs upon graduation, a sharp increase as compared with 1998. This was one of the key findings in the annual survey of recent graduates conducted by the American Geophysical Union and the American Geological Institute. The number of new graduates who took interim postdoctoral positions showed a corresponding drop in 1999.

"This is a significant shift, because so-called postdoctoral positions generally pay little and offer few if any benefits," says Jennifer Giesler, AGU's Manager of Career Services. "Most graduates are looking for a permanent job," she says, "and take a postdoc only if they have to." Giesler and colleagues prepared a report, "Earth & Space Science PhDs, Class of 1999," based on the AGU-AGI survey data. The 38 percent of new Ph.D.s who became postdocs following graduation in 1999 compares with 50 percent or more in the period 1996-1998.

Another striking result of the survey is that 80 percent of the geoscience Ph.D. class of 1999 found jobs in the geosciences. Their unemployment rate is negligible and significantly below that of 1998. Salaries are steadily increasing.

This is the fourth annual survey, in which AGU and AGI sent surveys to new recipients of Ph.D. degrees in earth and space sciences. The 62 percent of 1999 graduates who took permanent jobs found them in universities (27 percent), government (17 percent), industry (16 percent), and in nonprofit organizations (2 percent). The 38 percent of the same class that took postdoctoral positions found them in universities (25 percent), government (12 percent), and nonprofits ( 1 percent).

The perception of the job market is improving among recent graduates. In 1996, nearly two-thirds of respondents to that year's survey described the job market as hopeless or bad, and only four percent said it was good or excellent. In the 1999 survey, only 32 percent checked hopeless or bad, and 22 percent said it was good or excellent.

One-third of the 1999 graduates in the AGU-AGI survey were women, a figure that had been matched in 1997. But in 1996 and 1998, the figures were closer to one-quarter. The Giesler report incorporates data compiled by the National Science Foundation, showing that over the period 1973-1998, only 86 Ph.D.s in earth and space sciences were earned by African-Americans, less than one-half of one percent of the nearly 18,000 doctorates awarded during those 26 years. Hispanic Americans earned 224 degrees in these fields during the same years, a little over one percent.


The full report is available on the AGU web site at
It is also available by mail; send requests to:
Ms. Jennifer Giesler ( or
American Geophysical Union
2000 Florida Avenue, N.W.
Washington, DC 20009

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