Submitted to: Phytopathology
Publication Type: Abstract Only
Publication Acceptance Date: 4/1/2008
Publication Date: 7/1/2008
Citation: Gadoury, D.M., Lichens-Park, A., Andrews, J., Macdonald, J., Baumgartner, K., Kennelly, M., Burr, T., Talley, A., Savary, S., Scherm, H., Wang, G.L. 2008. Age Demographics, Hiring Trends, and Graduation Rates in Plant Pathology in the United States. Phytopathology. 98:556.
Technical Abstract: We examined the status of plant pathology departments and age demographics of the profession. Seven of eight large departments have lost from 17 to 40% of their faculty positions since 1987, and several smaller graduate programs in plant pathology (e.g., in several northeastern states) have all but disappeared. A census of plant pathology faculty at US universities revealed a median age of 52, with marked compression around the median. This predominant cohort was directly attributable to hiring during the period from 1966 to 1985, after which hiring rates dropped by nearly 50% for 20 years. Institutional expansion was followed by reduction, depressing numbers in all cohorts younger than the median age. Accelerated retirements are projected to begin in 2009 and the rate will steadily increase before peaking in 2016 at approximately five times the 2008 rate. At the same time, the annual number of PhDs awarded in plant pathology dropped by 15% during 2001 to 2005 from the previous 35-year period. Although focused on university faculty, the demographic trends are also broadly applicable to government service and the private sector. While our findings indicate improved job prospects for Plant Pathology graduates in the near term, the profession will simultaneously lose those best suited to mentor the broadly-trained professionals that are presently in demand. The aforementioned trends would be best addressed by strategic planning of national scope.