Thanks to Dr. Webb for voicing the predicament I and my colleagues face as recently graduated bioscience Ph.Ds. Unfortunately, I have real-life proof that spending 6 years in graduate school does not make financial sense. Like Laurie Earls, I too met my husband in graduate school, and like her and her husband, we are struggling to gain financial security. Living in the Washington, DC, area, we face high rent and childcare costs while simultaneously repaying undergraduate student loans. Both my husband and I have chosen to pursue non-traditional science careers, in large part because we simply cannot meet our financial obligations on postdoc salaries. As new parents, we are unwilling to postpone further our ability to save money for a house and our child’s education, and so we have both left the bench.
I encourage policymakers to consider carefully the career prospects of PhD scientists. In light of concerns that U.S. competitiveness is lagging in science and technology, perhaps efforts should be focused on employing, compensating and, hence, retaining the Ph.D.s we have. If efforts are instead focused on recruiting even more doctoral candidates – and this is certainly the current trend – I fear that the United States will simply have an even greater number of Ph.D.s who literally cannot afford to be scientists.
Meg L Flanagan, Ph.D.