How has your doctorate helped your career

promotion : A Dr. for the career

Miriam Keller * spent four and a half years researching reactive silicon compounds as a research assistant at the Technical University of Berlin (TU). Now she has finally made it. She has had her doctorate in chemistry for a week. “It was clear to me at the beginning of my studies that I wanted to do a doctorate,” she says. Most of her fellow students saw it similarly. For many companies that employ chemists, a doctorate is an important selection criterion. Thus, according to the Society of German Chemists, 90 percent of the graduates in the subject opt ​​for a doctorate.

Doing a doctorate is still popular in other subjects in Germany. The doctorate was awarded 25,600 times in 2010, as can be read in the 2013 Federal Report on Young Scientists. Almost every third doctorate was written in mathematics or in the natural sciences. These subjects have now overtaken human medicine, from which most of the doctors emerged in previous years.

The willingness to take a doctorate is undiminished

Also the numerous plagiarism affairs that repeatedly come to the public, from the case of the former Federal Defense Minister Karl-Theodor zu Guttenberg to the revoked doctorate of the former Federal Research Minister Annette Schavan to the current cases of plagiarism in medical doctoral theses from Münster - they have the joy of doing doctorates Germans not subdued: According to the Committee for Education, Research and Technology Assessment in the Bundestag, the number of doctoral students remained stable in 2013.

"Obviously, the doctorate is still very attractive even after the plagiarism scandal, otherwise not so many people would consider it," says Matthias Neis, education expert at the Verdi union. As before, the doctorate in the natural sciences is almost something like an extended training qualification. Neis himself is writing a doctoral thesis in sociology in addition to his full-time job, if time allows. His topic is the working conditions of young scientists.

Most of the people he spoke to about his work paid less attention to the title. Rather, they are so enthusiastic about their topic that they absolutely want to research it intensively. This motivation is so strong that the scientists accept the precarious working conditions that are common in university operations. “Fixed-term contracts are the rule, half-time jobs are full-time without corresponding pay,” says Neis.

But is the doctorate actually still a career catalyst today? "For some positions, be it as a university lecturer, museum director or a position in senior management in a larger company, a doctorate is the ticket in the first place," says education expert Neis.

Only five out of a hundred graduates do a doctorate

"For many HR managers, a doctorate is still proof of an applicant's extraordinary performance, because ultimately only five percent of university graduates do a doctorate," says Sörge Drosten, Managing Director of Kienbaum Executive Consultants International and a doctor of psychology. "The applicant proves that he has dealt intensively with a topic over a long period of time and is able to work analytically." especially welcome.

"For us, the entire skill set counts when hiring a candidate: potential, talent and career path are decisive," says Marcus K. Reif, Head of Recruiting and Employer Branding at the auditing company Ernst & Young (EY). A doctorate does not generally improve the chances of getting a job.

"We take a close look at how and in what time frame a doctoral thesis was created, whether as a research assistant at a university, at a commercial enterprise or in parallel with the job," says Marcus K. Reif. It is less about exposing plagiarism than about identifying the meaning of the title for the advertised job.

The title may bring with it a better starting salary. "A doctorate can definitely be viewed as relevant work experience, which in comparison with a graduate with a Bachelor's or Master's degree has an impact on the salary," says Reif.

However, the doctoral students had already lost a lot of money at this point, says Verdi expert Neis. Because in the three to five years they spend on average at their work, they were usually paid significantly less than other young academics in business. “It takes many years to make up for this drop in wages.” It is only over the course of your entire career that you earn more with a doctorate than without.

Dropouts are badly off

Sörge Drosten thinks: "You shouldn't do a doctorate for financial interests, but just to have fun doing research." Anyone who has ever started a doctoral thesis should stick with it. Because a dropout may be worse off than someone who started working immediately after graduating from university.

Nevertheless, according to a study by the Institute for University Research (HIS), around 17 percent of doctoral students drop out of their research project. Most cite an excessive workload on the job as the reason, followed by poor support.

Miriam Keller also knows dry spells during her doctorate. “What helped me was the exchange in the group,” she says. “We were almost 30 employees, so someone was always available for technical discussions. In particular, the know-how of the numerous postdocs was helpful when it came to tricky questions. ”So Miriam Keller was able to finish her work shortly after her 30th birthday. Now she hopes to find a job in research and development for a company in Berlin, if possible. It is very likely that she will no longer have much to do with reactive silicon compounds, the topic of her doctorate. The title alone counts.

* Name changed by the editor

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