Doctoral degree leads to good position in the labour market

Just over 80 per cent of those with a doctoral degree between 1998–2012 were established in the labour market after three years. Establishment in the labour market was highest in engineering and technology, and lowest in the humanities. Establishment increased with the number of years after obtaining a degree and more men than women were established in the labour market. Three years after obtaining a degree, 82 per cent of men and 80 per cent of women were established.

The Swedish Higher Education Authority (UKÄ) has published a report on establishment in the labour market among individuals awarded doctoral degrees in Sweden between 1998–2012. The follow-ups took place three, five, and eight years after obtaining a degree. Individuals who moved abroad and were no longer considered part of the Swedish population were not included.

The study population (31,470 individuals) was divided into the following groups according to position in the labour market: established, uncertain, weak and outside. The report primarily focuses on the first group: established in the labour market. Being defined as ‘established’ requires the doctoral degree-holder to have a relatively good income and to not have been unemployed during the follow-up year.

Most were established

Of individuals awarded a doctoral degree, 80 per cent of women and 82 per cent of men were established after three years, i.e., they had a good position in the labour market. 7 percent of women and 5 percent of men had what is called uncertain status in the labour market, which means a relatively low income or incidence of unemployment during the year. 7 percent of women and 6 percent of men had a weak footing in the labour market, meaning they had a very low income and incidence of full-time unemployment during the year. 6 percent of both women and men were outside the labour market, i.e. they had no income whatsoever.

Figure 1. Labour market position for women and men three years after obtaining a degree

Labour market position for women and men three years after obtaining a degree

The percentage of established individuals rose gradually with time after obtaining a degree. Five years after obtaining a degree, 85 per cent were established and eight years after obtaining a degree, 87 per cent were established. Men were also established to a greater degree than women longer after obtaining a degree. The difference in establishment between the sexes was two percentage points both five and eight years after obtaining the degree.

Highest establishment in engineering and technology

Third-cycle programmes are divided into six different fields of research: natural sciences, engineering and technology, medical and health sciences, agricultural sciences and veterinary medicine, social sciences, and humanities.

Figure 2. Percentage of established women and men three years after obtaining a degree by field of research

Percentage of established women and men three years after obtaining a degree by field of research

Establishment varies among the different fields of research. Establishment was highest among individuals with a doctoral degree in engineering and technology: 86 per cent of women and 89 per cent of men were established three years after obtaining a degree. The lowest percentage of established individuals was in the humanities, where 70 per cent of women and 73 per cent of men were established three years after obtaining a degree. Social sciences was the only field in which women had higher establishment than men: 86 per cent compared with 84 per cent.

Higher establishment for individuals with a Swedish background

Swedish doctoral students, who are part of the Swedish population, can be divided by whether they have a Swedish or foreign background. Doctoral degree-holders with a foreign background had a lower rate of establishment than those with a Swedish background. Establishment among women with a foreign background was 8 percentage points lower than women with a Swedish background. Establishment among men with a foreign background was 7 percentage points lower than men with a Swedish background.

The number of doctoral students who come to Sweden for a third-cycle programme, referred to here as international doctoral students, has increased. Meanwhile, the majority of international doctoral students do not stay in Sweden: three years after obtaining a degree, about 40 per cent were still in the country. Of those remaining, 69 per cent were established three years after obtaining a degree. The difference between women and men, however, was relatively high, with an establishment rate of 64 per cent for women and 72 per cent for men.

Public sector most common

Among doctoral degree-holders, it was most common to be employed by the state. About every other established individual was employed in the public sector. This was slightly more common among women: 55 per cent of women worked in the public sector compared with 45 per cent of men. For men, however, it was more common to work in the private sector, where 39 per cent of men worked compared with 25 per cent of women.

One third of women remain at the same higher education institution

Mobility, i.e. how many people stay on and work at the higher education institution where they obtained their doctoral degree, varied. Men stayed to a lesser extent: 29 per cent of established men remained at the same higher education institution, compared with 33 per cent of established women three years after obtaining a degree. 18 per cent of women and 14 per cent of men worked at a different higher education institution than where they obtained their doctoral degree. Finally, 50 per cent of women and 57 per cent of men worked outside of higher education institutions.