We now know that people in academia overwhelmingly supported Obama.

With that in mind, it’s difficult to feel sympathy over their shrinking pool of job prospects.

Scott Jaschik of Inside Higher Ed reports.

Ph.D. Job Woes

The proportion of new doctorates in 2011 who finished their degrees with firm commitments for either employment or a postdoc fell in 2011 — across every broad disciplinary category — according to data released Wednesday by the National Science Foundation.

Among all fields, 65.5 percent of new doctoral recipients reported having a definite commitment. That’s down from 71.6 percent five years earlier. There is significant variation by discipline, although the declines are present across the board. Declines have been relatively modest in engineering and physical sciences, and largest in the humanities.

Percentage of New Doctorates With Job or Postdoc Commitments

Discipline 2011 2006
Life sciences 62.5% 71.7%
Physical sciences 69.3% 72.8%
Social sciences 69.5% 74.3%
Engineering 64.0% 66.0%
Education 68.1% 74.9%
Humanities 57.0% 66.7%

The data are from the annual “Survey of Earned Doctorates,” a key source of information about those completing Ph.D.s — many of whom aspire to be the future faculty members of American colleges and universities. The number of science and engineering doctorates increased by 4 percent from 2010 to 2011. While other doctorates dropped 3.1 percent, much of that decline is attributable to a recent reclassification of education doctorates as professional rather than research doctorates.

Other key findings of the report:

  • Almost three-fourths of all research doctorates awarded in 2011 were in science and engineering fields. This reflects a steady increase in the share of doctorates awarded in those areas. Over all, 74 percent of doctorates were awarded in science and engineering in 2011, compared to 66 percent 10 years earlier.
  • A significant share of science and engineering doctorates are awarded to people who are not permanent residents or citizens of the United States. In 2011, that share was 36 percent, down from an all-time high of 41 percent in 2007.