Why are scientists & PhD holders turning to freelancing?

updated on 24 January 2022

Malak Kawan     Jan 19 2022      5 min


Did you know that more than 56% of those who hold a PhD make less than 100k a year? Moreover, that salary decreases even further if you choose a career path in education. This fact alone is one of the top reasons why so many PhD holders are finding employment outside of the realm of academia.

So, why is this happening, and what can PhD holders do to ensure they have a bright future? In this article, we'll cover the alarming PhD crisis and how finding the right opportunities have become essential during this critical time.

Frustration grows in academia for PhD holders

When you pursue a PhD, you're making a big-time commitment. During your education, you'll most likely have to do research, take additional courses which are not related to your field of study, teach or assist in teaching at the college level. You'll also have to complete one or more internships.

On top of this, the entire degree is usually self-funded, meaning you're likely to have a sizeable amount of debt once you finish your degree.

However, finding a well-paying role in academia to accompany your years of hard work is becoming nearly impossible, making it challenging to find a way forward. Here are some of the problems main frustrations that many PhD holders are facing:

Increasing number of PhD degrees

Only 4.5% of adults had a PhD in 2000. During those days, having a PhD was rare, meaning there was less competition in the industry. Schools worldwide would compete to try to reach this small population, offering positions that included higher salaries, generous vacation time, and academic tenure.

However, as of today, more than 13.1% of adults hold an advanced degree. Unfortunately, this has increased the amount of competition among degree holders to find jobs in academia, meaning you won't simply find a role just because you earned a degree.

Low number of available academic positions

Besides the increasing number of people who want the same position, there have been fewer openings for faculty positions worldwide. Not only do those who already have a job in academia hold on to them for a long time due to tenure, but universities are shifting away from these types of positions towards less expensive options, like bringing in guest speakers.

Unfortunately, this pushes recent PhD graduates to take on low-wage work to wait for an opening within a university they're interested in. However, as mentioned, those who already have these coveted positions are not looking to retire anytime soon, which means there's no timeline of when a job may become available.

Lack of university funding

Another reason why PhD holders are having a tough time finding jobs in academia is due to the lack of funding for their specific discipline. Universities across the country have had to reduce their staff due to budget deficits, which means they cannot hire new faculty members at this time.

Since most of that funding comes from tuition rates, which are dropping due to lower enrollment, there is no guaranteed security in a university lab. Instead, universities have to close down departments to keep up with the decline in revenue.

Salary does not keep up with inflation

Lastly, the average salary in academia has not matched the market's inflation. In fact, average salaries have decreased in the last 20 years. This is due to universities increasingly using adjunct professors and only offering low-wage work.

Salaries of postdoctoral researchers ranged from US$23,660 to over $100,000, with many salaries clustered in the median of about $47,500, which is less than the average wage of an electrician. Plus, wages in academia have not increased each year as other positions do, citing a 2.8% increase within the last year, still less than that of the national average.

This means that even if you find a position within academia, you're not likely to find the salary growth within the position, even after years of working the same job. It's clear that having a career in academia is not only challenging to find but doesn't have a payoff in the long run. Essentially, you become cheap labor instead of being valued for the knowledge and expertise you have obtained.

tech-hop is created to drive needed industry change

While some may find it challenging to find a job in academia, that doesn't mean you can't find a job that values your expertise and knowledge. tech-hop is an innovative company looking to be the change that PhD holders need. So instead of hoping that you have a career in the field of your dreams, you can be in control of your future, finding the right jobs that align with your goals. It was created to empower and diversify career prospects for PhD holders, regardless of research interests or discipline.

So, how does it work? Simply sign up and fill in your details here to showcase the relevant skills you have in the industry. Then, you'll be able to connect and browse freelancing opportunities (gigs, short-term, and even long-term positions) that sound the most interesting to you—once the platform is out. It will cover a wide range of projects, from climate-focused to biotech and more.

Spend less time finding a career and explore more often

Instead of spending hours searching for jobs, you can simply find one on tech-hop that will allow you to continue your research while also gaining valuable industry experience. This is the perfect way to get your foot in the door with various startups and projects so you can figure out which field or company is best for you.

Connect with diverse teams globally

With the wide variety of opportunities available, you can be a part of something bigger and make a difference in the scientific community. If you're looking for a collaborative environment where you'll get to develop your skills further, tech-hop is the right option for you.

Find the flexibility and salary you deserve

Not only does tech-hop ensure that you'll have a wide variety of jobs to choose from, but you won't have to compete anymore with lowball wage offers. With tech-hop, you'll be able to set your own rate and determine which projects you want to take on.

Get started with tech-hop today

By connecting global opportunities in one single platform, it's easy to find the perfect project on tech-hop that aligns with your career goals and the impact you want to create. If you want to become part of this valued community, sign up here to gain early access to the tech-hop platform once out.


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