Agència per a la Qualitat del Sistema Universitari de Catalunya

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Coordinated by AQU Catalunya and the social councils of the Catalan universities, this is the first study in Spain which provides information on the access of Ph.D. graduates to the labour market. In fact, even though Ph.D. training is a recurring topic of discussion in Europe, Sweden alone possesses data on the access of its Ph.D. graduates to the labour market and for this reason it may be envisaged that our study will have an international impact. Aside from information on the level of acceptance found by Ph.D. graduates in our economy, the study also covers the Ph.D. graduates' assessment of their training process. Moreover, by gathering information on aspects of Ph.D. training, the study allows an analysis of whether these methodologies (such as, for example, the circumstance of working within a research group or else independently) have an influence on the perceived level of achievement of the skills proper to Ph.D. training.

A total of 934 Ph.D. graduates were surveyed from among a population of 1,661 Ph.D. graduates who obtained their qualification at Catalan public universities between the years 2003 and 2004, representing 58% of said population. The study showed an overall sample error of about 2%.

Document PDF PDF Access to the labour market of Ph.D. graduates of the Catalan universities. Results of the 1st study

In relation to the employment outcomes of P.h.D., the following conclusions have been drawn:

Employment situation

97% of the Ph.D. graduates are in employment three years after obtaining their degree. The percentage ranges from 99% in Social Sciences and the Technical Area to 95% in Experimental Sciences. The percentage of employed Ph.D. graduates in 2008 is slightly higher than the percentage of employed university graduates in the same year (97% vs. 93.5%).

93% of the employed Ph.D. graduates have a full-time job (ranging from 96% in the Technical Area to 86% in Humanities). This indicator is also more positive than the figure obtained in the survey conducted in the same year on the first- and second-cycle degree-holders (88% of whom had full-time employment). These two indicators (employment rate and full-time jobs) would appear to indicate a more solid access to the labour market among Ph.D. graduates, a circumstance which is not necessarily linked to their higher degree but rather to the fact that they are persons who have a longer professional trajectory.

Where do Ph.D. graduates work?

38% of the Catalan Ph.D. graduates work at the university, with figures ranging from 58% in Social Sciences to 18% in Health Sciences; 19% of the Ph.D. graduates work at research centres, with figures ranging from 32% in Experimental Sciences to 4% in Social Sciences; 43% of the Ph.D. graduates work in companies or other institutions, with figures ranging from 64% in Health Sciences (where they most likely work in hospitals or other health-care centres) to 30% in the Technical Area.

Public or private sphere

70% of the Ph.D. graduates work in the public sphere. This figure is the result of the large number of Ph.D. graduates who work at the university or at research centres. Thus, 91% of the Ph.D. graduates who work at the university do so in the public university and 80% of those who work at research centres do so in public centres or institutes, while only 45% of the Ph.D. graduates who work in companies or other institutions do so in the public sphere. The data show that research in Catalunya takes place mainly in the public sphere, either at the universities or at research centres.


The possession of a Ph.D. degree is a job requirement for only a little over one-third of the Ph.D. graduates. This figure ranges from 52% in Experimental Sciences to 22% in Social Sciences. Only 32% of the Ph.D. graduates were required to possess a Ph.D. degree and carry out Ph.D. functions. 96.7% of the Ph.D. graduates, however, carry out university-level functions, a figure which is higher than that of the first- and second-cycle university graduates (85%). In terms of disciplinary spheres, Figure 1 shows that the percentage of persons who were required to possess a Ph.D. degree and who carry out Ph.D. functions ranges from 48% in Experimental Sciences to 20% in Social Sciences.

The place of employment is also a determining factor with respect to the level of suitability of the functions which come to be carried out. Thus, the percentage of persons required to possess a Ph.D. degree and who carry out Ph.D. functions ranges from 55% of the Ph.D. graduates at research centres or institutes to 10% of those who work in companies or other institutions.

Employment stability

Job stability is no higher for Ph.D. graduates than it is for university graduates, as the permanent employment rate for doctoral graduates is 61%, compared to 60% for university graduates.

Contractual stability is not necessarily associated with a quality employment. Temporary contracts were highest in Experimental Sciences, although they also had the highest percentage of doctoral graduates with jobs related to their degree. It was the other way round in Social Sciences, where there is a high level of job stability, but the lowest percentage of Ph.D. graduates with jobs related to their degree.

Gross annual earnings

The income mode (30%) lies in the range of €30,000 to €40,000 per annum. 11% of the Ph.D. graduates earn over €50,000 per annum, a figure which reaches 23% of the surveyed Ph.D. graduates in Health Sciences but only 2% of those in Humanities.

78% of the Ph.D. graduates earn over €24,000 per annum while only 4% earn less than €15,000 yearly. The gross annual earnings have been calculated on the basis of the collective which works full-time (93% of the sample, that is to say, 784 Ph.D. graduates).  If these data are compared with the figures of the earnings of university graduates, the situation of the Ph.D. graduates is clearly more favourable in all areas.

Satisfaction with current job

The Ph.D. graduates give a quite high score to their satisfaction with the content of their jobs (8.1 on a scale of 0 to 10) and to their satisfaction with their jobs in general, while they give a high middling score to the usefulness of their Ph.D. knowledge and a barely middling score to their outlook for improvement and their satisfaction with their remuneration.

Satisfaction with training

Ph.D. graduates give a quite high score to the quality of the thesis supervision process, that is to say, to the effectiveness of their relationship with the thesis supervisors. Ph.D. graduates also express their satisfaction with the quality and availability of resources (bibliography as well as laboratories, etc.). What the Ph.D. graduates most value with respect to classes and seminars is their relationship with the doctorate teachers, but they are more critical in their assessment of the relevance of the classes and seminars, to which they give a barely passing score.

All the skills were assessed with a very high score, except "teamwork" and "languages".

Willingness to repeat Ph.D.

84% of the Ph.D. graduates would study the Ph.D. again if they were to begin anew. This figure is 10 points higher than the willingness to repeat degree studies among university graduates. For Ph.D. graduates, the respective figures range from 86% in Health Sciences and Experimental Sciences to 80% in Social Sciences.