Diversity Exiting the Academy: Influential Factors for the Career Choice of Well-Represented and Underrepresented Minority Scientists

CBE Life Sci Educ. 2016 fall;15(3):ar41. doi: 10.1187/cbe.16-01-0066.


A national sample of PhD-trained scientists completed training, accepted subsequent employment in academic and nonacademic positions, and were queried about their previous graduate training and current employment. Respondents indicated factors contributing to their employment decision (e.g., working conditions, salary, job security). The data indicate the relative importance of deciding factors influencing career choice, controlling for gender, initial interest in faculty careers, and number of postgraduate publications. Among both well-represented (WR; n = 3444) and underrepresented minority (URM; n = 225) respondents, faculty career choice was positively associated with desire for autonomy and partner opportunity and negatively associated with desire for leadership opportunity. Differences between groups in reasons endorsed included: variety, prestige, salary, family influence, and faculty advisor influence. Furthermore, endorsement of faculty advisor or other mentor influence and family or peer influence were surprisingly rare across groups, suggesting that formal and informal support networks could provide a missed opportunity to provide support for trainees who want to stay in faculty career paths. Reasons requiring alteration of misperceptions (e.g., limited leadership opportunity for faculty) must be distinguished from reasons requiring removal of actual barriers. Further investigation into factors that affect PhDs' career decisions can help elucidate why URM candidates are disproportionately exiting the academy.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Academies and Institutes*
  • Career Choice*
  • Faculty
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Laboratory Personnel*
  • Logistic Models
  • Male
  • Minority Groups*