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To Be or Not to Be... a Scientist?


  • Chevalier, Arnaud

    () (Royal Holloway, University of London)


Policy makers generally advocate that to remain competitive countries need to train more scientists. Employers regularly complain of qualified scientist shortages blaming the higher wages in other occupations for luring graduates out of scientific occupations. Using a survey of recent British graduates from Higher Education we report that fewer than 50% of science graduates work in a scientific occupation three years after graduation. The wage premium observed for science graduates stems from occupational choice rather than a science degree. Accounting for selection into subject and occupation, the returns to working in a scientific occupation reaches 18% and there is no return to a science degree outside scientific occupations. Finally, scientists working in a scientific occupation are more satisfied with their educational and career choices, which suggests that those not working in these occupations have been pushed out of careers in science.

Suggested Citation

  • Chevalier, Arnaud, 2012. "To Be or Not to Be... a Scientist?," IZA Discussion Papers 6353, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
  • Handle: RePEc:iza:izadps:dp6353

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. repec:lan:wpaper:2153 is not listed on IDEAS
    2. Keith A. Bender & John S. Heywood, 2009. "Educational Mismatch among Ph.D.s: Determinants and Consequences," NBER Chapters,in: Science and Engineering Careers in the United States: An Analysis of Markets and Employment, pages 229-255 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    3. repec:lan:wpaper:2155 is not listed on IDEAS
    4. Arcidiacono, Peter, 2004. "Ability sorting and the returns to college major," Journal of Econometrics, Elsevier, vol. 121(1-2), pages 343-375.
    5. repec:lan:wpaper:2271 is not listed on IDEAS
    6. repec:lan:wpaper:2409 is not listed on IDEAS
    7. James D. Adams, 2009. "Is the U.S. Losing Its Preeminence in Higher Education?," NBER Working Papers 15233, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
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    Blog mentions

    As found by, the blog aggregator for Economics research:
    1. Why encourage more students to choose scientific careers?
      by Economic Logician in Economic Logic on 2012-03-06 21:45:00


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    Cited by:

    1. Luc Bridet & Margaret Leighton, 2015. "The Major Decision: Labor Market Implications of the Timing of Specialization in College," Discussion Paper Series, Department of Economics 201510, Department of Economics, University of St. Andrews.

    More about this item


    science; graduate; labour market;

    JEL classification:

    • I21 - Health, Education, and Welfare - - Education - - - Analysis of Education
    • J24 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Demand and Supply of Labor - - - Human Capital; Skills; Occupational Choice; Labor Productivity
    • J44 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Particular Labor Markets - - - Professional Labor Markets and Occupations

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