By Ilana Kowarski

U S News, April 3, 2017 —

Graduates of doctoral programs often struggle to translate their academic training into a steady job. This is especially true for doctorate recipients who compete for tenure-track faculty positions.

Although there are many fields where finding a doctorate-level job is difficult, a few offer a plentiful supply.

Here are four fields where doctorate degree recipients are in high demand in the job market, according to federal employment statistics.

1. Physical therapy: The number of jobs available to physical therapists, who typically need a doctorate in physical therapy, is growing much faster than average, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. The bureau predicted 34 percent job growth in this occupation between 2014 and 2024.

The aging population in the U.S. and the mobility issues faced by geriatric adults are fueling this job growth, experts say.

 “There are age-related declines in function that can be addressed through exercise,” says James Irrgang, professor and chair of the department of physical therapy at the University of Pittsburgh.

Another contributing factor to this trend, Irrgang says, is that U.S. physicians are increasingly wary of prescribing pain medications due to the opioid addiction crisis. They have begun referring their patients to physical therapists instead.

Ellen Wruble-Hakim, director of the Doctor of Physical Therapy program at the University of Delaware, says innovation in medicine has allowed people to survive injuries that would have been fatal in the past, which heightens the demand for physical therapy rehabilitation.

 2. Criminal justice: Experts say contentious political debates about criminal justice reform, cybersecurity and terrorism have contributed to an abundance of jobs for graduates of criminal justice doctorate programs.
 “Policymakers are looking for answers,” says Eric Sevigny, associate professor of criminal justice and criminology at Georgia State University.

Sevigny says public policy think tanks, law enforcement agencies and government policymaking bodies regularly hire criminal justice Ph.Ds.

Data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics show that, in contrast with the dismal academic job market for humanities Ph.D.s, the academic job market for criminal justice Ph.D.s is very healthy. The number of academic jobs available to criminal justice Ph.D.s is expected to increase between 20 and 29 percent from 2014 to 2024, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

3. Nursing: Forecasts from the Bureau of Labor Statistics indicate there will be a rapidly increasing number of job opportunities for nursing doctorate recipients, including both those with a clinically-oriented Doctor of Nursing Practice degree and those with a research-oriented Ph.D. in nursing.

The bureau predicts that between 2014 and 2024, the number of advanced practice nursing jobs will swell 31 percent, and the number of academic nursing jobs will rise 19 percent, compared with an average of 7 percent among all U.S. occupations.

 Lydia Rotondo, associate dean of education and student affairs at the University of Rochester School of Nursing and director of its DNP program, says there is a growing recognition throughout the health care system of the need to provide evidence-based treatments for patients.

Because of this, Rotondo says, health care employers often seek nurses who can use data to inform their treatment decisions. The ability to translate research into practice is a skill that DNP recipients typically bring to the table, since their training focuses on how to analyze and implement clinical research, she says.

 Rotondo says the desire for evidence-based care in the nursing profession is also boosting the demand for nursing Ph.D.s who have expertise in conducting clinical research, since they can offer insight into what treatments are most effective.
4. Computer science: Experts say the overwhelming amount of data available to businesses via the internet and various tracking devices has led to a significant amount of private sector demand for computer science Ph.D.s and other Ph.D.s who are trained to interpret large amounts of data.

“The more sensors we have, the more data analysis we need, and that need is just skyrocketing,” says Dan Allen, chief technology officer at Medic, a Utah-based health care technology startup.

Allen says Ph.D.-trained data scientists are often paid well, particularly if they work for technology companies like his.

“In Silicon Valley, you won’t find a lot of salaries that are higher than the data scientist’s,” he says.

The median pay among U.S. computer scientists in 2015 was $110,620 per year, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Bob Murphy, head of the computational biology department at Carnegie Mellon University‘s School of Computer Science, says Ph.D.-trained computer scientists often assist technology companies with product development.

“In many cases, the company has an idea of what they want to do but they don’t know how to do it,” Murphy says. “They need somebody to figure out how, and that’s not something you can do with an undergraduate education. That’s ultimately what a Ph.D. is about – figuring out how to do what has not been done before.”