Ph.D students earning a degree in depression

graduate student depressed

Graduate students are feeling grim about their job prospects.

A recent survey by UC-Berkeley's student assembly found that nearly half -- 47% -- of its Ph.D students were depressed, citing dismal job prospects. About 37% of its master's degree students also reported depression.

Even though the once-a-decade report only focused on Berkeley -- one of the most prestigious public universities in the country -- it could spark a wider discussion on the value of graduate education in America.

"The largest source of anxiety for me is my job outlook. It is tremendously uncertain and thus fear-inducing," one anonymous graduate student said in their survey response.

Job pessimism was the biggest difference between Ph.D and master's students.

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While Ph.D's have an unemployment rate of 2.1% -- half the national average of 5.5% and they earn 44% more than those with college undergrad degrees -- the outlook for future grads is somewhat bleak. Many universities have slashed their budgets in recent years, reducing the number of full-time faculty and replacing them with part-time adjunct professors. Those low-paying jobs often won't suffice for students who have racked up debt and spent years out of the workforce.

Berkeley's "Graduate Student Happiness & Well-Being Report," did not clinically diagnose students and a range of factors weighted the survey scoring of 2,500 graduate students.

The report's findings were especially bad for students in the humanities. About 64% of grad students in the humanities -- including English and philosophy -- were scored as depressed on the survey. A possible reason why: there's been a 30% decline in the number of humanities teaching positions at universities since 2007, according to the American Academy of Arts & Sciences.

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