Sather GateA UC survey released in October 2014 shows high satisfaction, career success, low unemployment, decreasing student loan debt and overall degree satisfaction among UC doctoral alumni. The survey included University of California’s 10 campuses and surveyed the last 40 years of doctoral alumni from 1968-2008. Topics surveyed included career preparation, community service, awards, student loan debt, degree satisfaction and academic preparation.

This UC-wide survey was inspired by a UC Berkeley survey, which was developed and administered in 2012 by Andrew K. Smith, Assistant Dean for Research and Planning in the Graduate Division. “The other campuses found our approach so illuminating that they replicated it for all the other nine campuses,” Smith said.

His team at Berkeley initiated the alumni survey, according to Smith, after hearing doctoral students express concern over finding faculty jobs after they graduate because the job market did not seem promising. “We wanted to find out if that was actually the case or not,” he said.


The Berkeley survey—sent to 11,500 doctoral alumni and garnering roughly 2,500 respondents—was conducted using both email and postal mail, because a majority of alumni did not file a valid email address with the university. Smith aims to collect close to 80% of alumni email addresses for the next survey planned in 2015.

Survey Highlights

Career Preparation
A promising result was that Berkeley alumni finding job placement in colleges and universities was higher at 55% than the national average of 41%. “That’s encouraging, since many students enter doctoral programs with this ambition,” said Smith.

  • 90% of respondents said they felt “well-prepared” or “prepared” for their career after completing a UC doctorate
  • 78% reported staying within the same academic ­field after graduating
  • 91% felt “practice of academic professional writing skills” is a “very important” academic skill in doctoral education
  • 35% who were employed in colleges and universities remained in California

Student Debt
Survey findings showed that the majority of doctoral alumni graduated without education-related debt (graduate and undergraduate). Of those with debt, the majority were able to pay off loans quickly. Although debt is more prevalent among recent graduates, student debt has declined since the early 1990s.

  • 68% graduated without student loan debt
  • Students in the Arts and Humanities, Social Sciences and Natural Resources took out loans more frequently
  • Students in Engineering and Physical Sciences took out loans less frequently
  • For students graduating with loan debt, nearly half were able to pay off education-related loans under five years 

University Satisfaction

  • 95% of respondents would pursue a doctoral degree again
  • 95% would choose graduate study at Berkeley again
  • 86% would select the same field of study at Berkeley again
  • 75% cited the reputation of the campus and their program as top factors in landing a job

A comprehensive report that will include more data breakdown will be made available in the coming months, according to Smith.