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What do doctoral graduates in physical sciences do? 2006


2,300 graduates received doctoral degrees in physical sciences, engineering or IT (PSET) subjects in 2004, with 1,560 replying to the Destinations of Leavers of Higher Education survey. The gender breakdown was very similar to that at masters level, with 72.3% of respondent graduates male (See Table One). The very large majority, 86.8%, of graduates took their courses full time.

PhD graduatesPhysical sciences, engineering and IT

Table One: Overview of UK-domiciled PhD graduates in PSET subjects from 2004

Subjects studied

Much the most popular subject of study was chemistry, with 565 graduates, 24.6% of the total. 11.1% completed doctorates in physics, and 6.8% obtained doctorates in computing.

Other popular subjects included:

  • Civil engineering
  • Electronic and electrical engineering
  • Environmental sciences
  • Geology
  • Mathematics
  • Mechanical engineering
  • Physical and terrestrial geographical and environmental sciences

Survey response

65.6% of doctoral graduates in PSET subjects from 2004 were working in the UK 6 months after graduating, and a further 10.7% were combining work and study (see Figure One).

This area produces graduates that are in demand overseas, and more than one in ten UK-domiciled doctoral graduates in the field, 10.6%, went abroad to work or study.

The group also had an unusually high unemployment rate for doctoral graduates, at 5.0%. This was partly driven by unemployment rates amongst chemistry graduates, the largest group of graduates in the field, and suggests a very competitive job market for those with PhDs in chemistry.

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Figure One: Survey responses of UK-domiciled PhD graduates in physical sciences, engineering and technology in 2004

Types of work

1155 respondent PSET doctoral graduates from 2004 were working six months after graduating (see Table Two). The largest group, 19.4%, were working as researchers in universities, without specifying disciplines, mainly on fixed term contracts. Another 17.8% were involved in R&D, and 6.9% were working specifically as chemists. 12.3% were working as engineering professionals. 7.6% were working as managers in the public or private sector.

OccupationNumber of graduatesPercentage of graduating cohort
Other scientific research, analysis and development professionals20517.8%
Researchers (general and unspecified)22519.4%
University and higher education lecturers857.4%
Others in education554.5%
Engineering professionals14012.3%
Information technology professionals756.3%
Commercial, industrial and public sector managers907.6%
Business, finance and sales professionals706.3%
Other professionals806.9%
Other occupations504.5%

Table Two: Types of work of UK-domiciled PhD degree graduates from 2004 in PSET subjects working in the UK six months after graduation.

Further information

What do masters graduates do? - destination information for masters graduates from 2004

What do masters graduates in physical sciences do? - first destinations from 2004 for masters graduates in this subject area

What do graduates do? - first destinations for graduates from first degrees in 2004

What do PhDs do? - destination information on PhD graduates from 2003, hosted by UK Grad.

Other subjects of doctoral study

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