This infographic has gone viral across the past few days, and for a very good reason. Many PhD candidates in biology aspire to have the life of their mentor in graduate school. I will even admit that it seems like utopia except for the time away from the bench. I hope to never be that hands off. Three things are striking to me on this infographic derived from an NIH report published in 2012 on enrollment, retention, and short- and long-term success in academia. First, the high dropout rate of 37% across the average length of time that it takes to get a PhD in biology which is about 7 years is higher than other professional degree programs: law school, business school, and med school. Although this can easily be explained by the lack of financial commitment. Most PhD candidates are paid enough to not have to take out loans or find another job whereas those in other professional degree programs feel the need to bite the bullet if they are already $100k + into paying for their program. Second, PhD candidates say they want to get a PhD because they want to be in a faculty position. The NIH portfolio reveals, however, that a tenured faculty position is a rare gem, reserved only for 8%. This statistic is likely lower for women and minorities because let’s face it, even in 2014 academia still greatly struggles with recruiting more than just frat boys. Lastly, I was shocked to learn that postdocs really aren’t as mistreated as I previously thought. The average length of one is 4 years and only about 30% do a second postdoc. Maybe I am hanging out with the wrong crowd. At any rate, this infographic emphasizes the importance of planning ahead in the short- and long-term by means of having a Career Development Plan. Fill one of these out and post it to your bulletin board. It is helpful, trust me.

from getting a Phd to having your own lab