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Salary and Career Info for a Doctor of Philosophy Degree

A doctor of philosophy degree is generally offered as a research-based, individualized path of study. Continue reading for an overview of the programs, as well as career and salary info for some career options for graduates.

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A doctor of philosophy degree is also commonly known as a Ph.D. While many individuals with a doctor of philosophy pursue a career as a college professor, others opt to become researchers.

Essential Information

The most popular career path of Ph.D. holders is that of academia. Those holding a Ph.D. will appreciate the best job opportunities from 4-year universities and have a much higher chance of obtaining tenure-track positions. Individuals may also obtain a Ph.D. in order to do more advanced research as professors or become operations research analysts.

Career Title College Professor Operations Research Analyst
Education Requirements Ph.D. in field of expertise Bachelor's degree or Ph.D.
Projected Job Growth* (2014-2024) 13% for postsecondary teachers 30%
Median Salary* (2015) $72,470 for postsecondary teachers $78,630

*Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Overview

A Doctor of Philosophy degree, commonly referred to as a Ph.D., is a level of degree rather than a degree focusing on philosophy. A Ph.D. is possible in most academic areas and can prepare its holders for a wide variety of career paths. The academic world is the traditional destination for Ph.D. holders; many go on to enter careers as postsecondary teachers, usually as college professors. Another route that often intersects with professorship is that of the researcher.

Academic Route

Although 2-year colleges may hire full-time employees with only a master's degree, most 4-year schools require a Ph.D. of their teachers. Even most 2-year schools prefer to hire individuals who have earned doctorate degrees for teaching roles. A Ph.D. gives an individual a much better shot at earning a tenured professor position at a university, which is something most postsecondary teachers find quite desirable. Tenure gives teachers much greater job security and room for worry-free academic expression.

Researchers

The very nature of earning a doctoral degree will develop a Ph.D. candidate's research and publishing skills. Many college professors continue using those skills to advance in their careers by pairing research and publishing articles or reports. Graduates of a Ph.D. program can also use their higher degree to acquire a high-ranking job as an operations research analyst. This is applicable to those who have chosen related focus areas such as mathematics, business, engineering or computer science. Analysts listen to top-level managers who describe problems. They then use their research skills to break these problems down into more easily handled components and offer solutions.

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Salary

The salaries of tenure-track professors vary largely depending upon what stage they are on. The tenure track has four positions: instructor, assistant professor, associate professor and professor. Most universities hire new teachers at the instructor or assistant professor level and put them on contracts. At the end of the contract, the teacher is evaluated to determine whether he or she will be allowed to move forward.

According to 2012-2013 survey data from the American Association of University Professors, the average annual salaries for each stage on the tenure track at all types of postsecondary institutions were as follows:

  • Instructors - $51,116
  • Assistant Professors - $76,822
  • Associate Professors - $88,306
  • Professors - $134,747

The study also showed that professors at religiously affiliated institutions tended to earn more than those at public schools, while salaries at private and independent institutions were generally the highest.

Professors' salaries also differ widely based on their subject. For example, according to the BLS in 2015, the median annual salary for postsecondary English language and literature teachers was $61,990, while the median salary of a postsecondary law teacher was much higher, at $105,250.

In May of 2015, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reported the median annual wage for operations research analysts was $78,630. The BLS also indicated that while some entry-level analyst jobs were available to bachelor's degree holders, the most lucrative positions were filled with those who held advanced degrees.

Job Outlook

While the BLS predicts faster-than-average job growth of 13% for postsecondary teachers as postsecondary enrollment continues to increase, it also warns that some institutions are decreasing tenure-track positions in favor of part-time and adjunct employment.

The BLS also weighs in on job growth for operations research analysts, which is expected to be faster than that of college professors, at 30%. Companies of all sorts will feel the need to hire analysts to help them reduce costs and become more efficient. The introduction of new technologies will also necessitate the work of analysts in order to discover the best uses of the technology.

The BLS predicts that from 2014-2024 there will be faster than average job growth for postsecondary teachers and much faster than average job growth for researchers. This means that there should be many job prospects for graduates with a doctor of philosophy degree to consider upon graduation.

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