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Thread: How to find graduation and placement rates?

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    How to find graduation and placement rates?

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    As we're starting to compare programs and will soon need to make decisions, it seems like not many departments post detailed information on graduation and placements. Is there a way to find out how many entering PhD students (1) drop out, (2) graduate and get academic jobs, (3) graduate and get non-academic jobs?

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    Re: How to find graduation and placement rates?

    This would be a good question to ask the PhD program coordinator or existing students in the program. I have noticed that fewer schools are publicly posting placements. These are very important questions to ask and I wish I had thought to ask them myself when I was considering programs. I would also suggest asking about the comps process and what the initial pass rates are.

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    Re: How to find graduation and placement rates?

    Quote Originally Posted by BCB View Post
    This would be a good question to ask the PhD program coordinator or existing students in the program. I have noticed that fewer schools are publicly posting placements. These are very important questions to ask and I wish I had thought to ask them myself when I was considering programs. I would also suggest asking about the comps process and what the initial pass rates are.
    Thank you! I will ask these, probably after I'm admitted. What specifically should I ask about the comps process? (I know what they are, just not sure what to keep an eye out for.)

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    Re: How to find graduation and placement rates?

    Yes - definitely a good idea to ask after you've been admitted. I think the comps related questions would be best answered by current students in the program and should give you more insight into distinguishing between students who drop out voluntarily vs those who are not permitted to complete the program. I think that comps is the metric that most programs use to weed out under performing students but PhD students will also drop out for reasons that have nothing to do with poor performance.

    You are definitely asking the right questions here. It would be nice if this data were more readily available!

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    Re: How to find graduation and placement rates?

    Yeah, schools are reticent to post their placement rates and I would be very surprised to see any schools post information on those leaving the program. The reality is that schools don't want you thinking about leaving when you are entering a program. Asking students is a great way to get that information, way more than faculty would be willing to share.

    On average across all PhD programs in all fields, the last I saw the rate was somewhere around 50% actually complete programs. Reports from the Chronicle of higher education suggest that business schools are closer to 75% finishing, but again those stats are really difficult to parse out because they're based on self-reporting.

    The reality is also that this is really school dependent. I know schools that drop the majority of their students after the first year, and I know schools that basically will guarantee you to finish if you don't drop out yourself.

    Placements are a little easier to find for marketing we have the who went where survey. Now, obviously, that report is extremely biased, like grossly biased, those who do well are much more likely to respond than those who do not. But even with that being the case you can see where the students who did best in their programs ended up. It's possible that the other business fields have something similar, so check around for that. Additionally, again you can ask the current students, theoretically, they will be honest with you about the program (I hope so at least, the worst thing that could happen would be a bait and switch).

    Comps are best asked about after being accepted but before accepting their offer. Again, ask the students, not the faculty. They will tell you what's up.
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    Re: How to find graduation and placement rates?

    As usual, XanthusAres hits it on the nose. Here's another perspective.

    A PhD program is not like med school-- people don't simply get admitted, work really hard in school, graduate, work really hard in residency, and become an attending physician. I would imagine, conditional on graduating med school, that at least 85% of MDs in the workforce are doctors in some form or fashion. There is a strong system of matching demand and supply that is mandated from top-down in the field.

    PhD programs oversupply the academic market with smart, hardworking graduates, meaning that there is not a 1-to-1 match between demand for professors and supply of students. The number of PhD program spots, for example, is not set by the Academy of Management like the number of medical school spots and residency spots are set by the American Medical Association. Many schools take on more PhDs than the market demands since PhD students are cheap substitutes for tenured research and teaching roles (other PhD fields, like English, are much worse on this dimension). Assuming you like what you research, the number one determinant of career success as a grad student is working with an engaged advisor who can mentor you to become socialized in the field and learn how to navigate the social and political nature of publishing. Professors' roles as advisors are also not strongly incentivized by administration, so advisor quality varies wildly in practice. The toughest part is that it's incredibly hard for you as a PhD student to tell ex ante who will be an engaged advisor or what a truly engaged advisor even looks like in the first place. Many will be nice people who will be totally disengaged with your development as a scholar. Again, ask current students to see which advisors push their students to develop.

    The end result is that PhDs lead to wildly disparate (and often random) outcomes for their students. Across strategy/OB programs, I'd estimate that about 20%-30% of starting students don't finish, and 20%-30% of graduating students won't go into academia. This means about 30%-50% of people who enter never attain an upper-middle class professor job.

    You will learn a *lot* on the journey, which may make a PhD worth it in and of itself, but the academic job market is a total gong show. Schools know that they have the upper hand, get a good deal from having all of those PhD students working teaching and research assistant roles, and don't have to disclose industry placements on their websites. They have no incentive to balance the playing field or making the system clearer or simpler for graduates, and I anticipate this will not change.

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