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The Best Data Out There

As we’ve started asking how to get better data about Ph.D. placement, we’ve heard from some universities that do, in fact, keep detailed records of what happens to their students.

Check out the details at the University of Michigan’s Rackham Graduate School. The site lists statistics for Michigan’s 108 Ph.D. programs, including admission rates, gender and racial breakdowns, and aggregate placement statistics for both one and five years after earning the Ph.D.

Here’s a similar site for Northwestern University. This one also has great information about attrition and completion rates (though it’s all in PDF form). The placement report shows 10 years’ worth of data, broken down by job type (academic, industry, government, etc.). And it further breaks down the academic jobs by Carnegie classification and by U.S. News & World Report rankings. Here is an example for the English department (PDF).

Two other universities with comprehensive and easily available statistics on Ph.D. programs:

  • University of Iowa: Here’s data for the neuroscience program. The neuroscience-program page doesn’t link to the data, however. Instead, it lists recent graduates, their thesis topics, their advisers, and their current positions.

We’d love to know what you think of those statistics. Is this what prospective students want to see? Do they know such statistics exist? Are aggregates better than individual details? Or are broad categories like “industry” or “tenure track” not telling enough? Should any of those be used as models? Are there other institutions that do this well or better—and should be emulated?

Let us know in the comments. Or send a note to phdplacement@chronicle.com.

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