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Conditions Influencing the Career Accomplishment of Ph.D.s GREB

Clark, Mary Jo; Centra, John A.
Publication Year:
Report Number:
ETS Research Report
Document Type:
Page Count:
Subject/Key Words:
Graduate Record Examinations Board, Careers, Doctoral Degrees, Productivity, Professional Occupations, Success, Work Experience


This study is a synthesis of two separate but related analyses which explored the influence of academic ability, training, and personal characteristics on postdegree careers and attainments of recent Ph.D.'s. Publication rates and income were used as indicators of attainments. The path model designed for the study viewed the employment setting as well as the kind of employment activity as mediating influences on the attainment measures. Academic ability was assessed by the GRE Aptitude and Advanced Tests and, for part of the sample, by graduate and undergraduate grades. Among the other individual characteristics included as predictors in the study were the number of years since receipt of the Ph.D., age, and sex. Finally, the study included estimates of the quality of the graduate program where the Ph.D. was received. Some fairly consistent findings emerge when viewing the results across all six of the major field/ discipline area samples that were analyzed. Although the academic ability construct did not generally affect productivity or income directly, it correlated significantly with the quality of the program that granted the Ph.D. Program quality, in turn, was an important determinant of whether graduates were employed in positions that emphasized research, or teaching and research. Employment in such positions, according to the path analyses, influenced productivity in each of the subsamples. Thus, ability and training appear to influence productivity largely through the employment setting and the primary work activity. The other direct influences on productivity were the number of years since receiving the doctorate, or other time-related variables. The length of time since earning the doctorate also positively influenced income in five out of six of the subsamples. Productivity helped to determine income in the samples of historians, psychologists, and physical scientists, but not in the other three samples. Employment as a college or university faculty member, or as an academic or nonacademic researcher, has a negative impact on income in all six subsamples. Those employed as administrators or as clinicians tended to report higher earnings. Academic ability, for the most part, did not affect income.

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