2017 Career Tracking Survey of Doctorate Holders

ESF publishes the report from the 2017 career tracking survey of doctorate holders


Background and Objectives

This project built on the work of ESF Member Organisation Forum ‘European Alliance on Research Career Development’ (EARCD)  and on an ESF pilot study Career tracking of Doctorate Holders (2015).

The aims were to further develop the pilot questionnaire and enable participating organisations to better understand the occupational and mobility patterns as well as satisfaction levels of their doctorate graduates.

Participants collected this data for their own monitoring and planning purposes with the intention of improving their doctoral education and career advice.

Click below to obtain a free copy of the 2017 Career Tracking Survey of Doctorate Holders Project Report.

Download now

Partner Organisations

The following universities and organisations joined the consortium: University of Maastricht, Technical University of Munich, Goethe Research Academy for Early Career Researchers (GRADE) at Goethe University Frankfurt, University of Bucharest, University of Split, University of Luxembourg, Institute of Science and Technology, Austria, and the AXA Research Fund, France.

What is involved?

The ESF, together with its experts and partner organisations, designed an online questionnaire to collect anonymised data on doctorate holders up to seven years after PhD completion. The questionnaire had a core part common to all organisations, as well as additional organisation-specific modules elaborated together with the participating organisations. The project required availability of contact data for doctorate holders within participating organisations. Relevant demographic, career mobility and social and economic outcome data of the doctorate holders including skills utilisation patterns and transfers was collected. The deliverables provided to each participant included individual reports (with a statistical analysis and an anonymised data set) and a global final report.

Main findings

  • A very high employment rate of doctorate holders (95 %)
  • A vast majority (80%) working as researchers
  • The overall unemployment rate (4 %) diminishing over time
  • 60 % of respondents currently working in the academic field
  • Only 50 % of those working in universities permanently employed compared to the majority of those working in industry
  • While the majority of positions in universities/research organisations require a doctorate, or even a post-doctorate, a master’s-level degree is most required for those in government, services or hospital.
  • In industry, equally large shares of respondents (45 % each) worked in positions that require a doctorate or a master’s-level degree
  • Male doctorate holders prevail in natural sciences, engineering and agricultural sciences, and women – in medical and health sciences, social sciences and humanities
  • Similarly high shares of men and women work as researchers, and similar proportions of men and women work in senior academic posts and other position levels
  • High levels of geographic mobility with 40 % having lived in a foreign country for more than three months after graduation, mostly within Europe and North America
  • Nearly 60 % of researchers involved in trans-national cooperation, while lower levels of cross-sectoral collaboration


Career Tracking Project team
Julia Boman – Science Officer, Coordinator of the project
Julija Baginskaite – Junior Science Officer
Tiphaine Sturtz – Administrative Assistant

External Experts - Survey methodology
Dr Nejc Berzelak and Dr Barbara Brečko, Faculty of Social Sciences, University of Ljubljana, Slovenia


Julia Boman
Science Officer
European Science Foundation
1, quai Lezay Marnésia BP 90015
F-67080 Strasbourg Cedex France
Phone: +33 (0)3 88 76 21 71
Email: ctmp[at]esf[dot]org