PhD graduates begin career life successfully

European Study: A TUM doctorate is a brand of excellence

Interdisciplinary discussion at a workshop of the TUM Graduate School in the Science & Study Center Raitenhaslach.
Interdisciplinary discussion at a workshop of the TUM Graduate School in the Science & Study Center Raitenhaslach. (Image: A. Heddergott / TUM)

Campus news

The "TUM brand" plays an important role in the professional lives of TUM PhD graduates. As a study by the European Science Foundation shows, a doctorate at the Technical University of Munich (TUM) is an ideal preparation for launching a career not only in the sciences, but also in business.

More and more doctoral candidates are working their way through Germany's relatively new graduate schools, focusing on doctoral studies following the Master's degree. Where do they work after completing their studies? Does the doctorate help them in the first job? In contrast to for example the USA, in the past only little was known about their career paths in Europe. Therefore the European Science Foundation (ESF) joined European research institutions to survey approximately 2,000 former doctoral students, including over 1,000 who have completed their doctorates at TUM since 2010.

Employment is a certainty among the TUM PhDs surveyed: 96 percent have a job. They are in such high demand in the labor market that 74 percent began their professional careers no later than one month after receiving their doctorate (the rate was 66% among all those surveyed). Approximately 40 percent already have personnel responsibility (vs. 35 % of all those surveyed).

85 percent would earn a doctorate again

Half of the TUM doctoral graduates surveyed (49 %) work in business, more than a third (36 %) is employed at universities and other research institutes. And over 40 percent of those employed in business hold research positions. The numbers show that TUM educates significantly more highly-qualified specialist personnel for industry research than other universities do. Only 17 percent of the entire number surveyed work in business.

Those surveyed regard their doctorates at TUM as important building block in their careers. 85 percent of those who conduct research in scientific or business sectors, and three fourths of all TUM alumni, feel that their doctoral studies prepared them well or even very well for their first jobs. A large majority of those surveyed (85 %) would earn a doctorate again.

Graduate schools – core focus of the Excellence Initiative

"The European study shows that a doctoral degree awarded by TUM is an exceptionally valuable brand of excellence that represents the best possible qualification for industrial research departments," says Prof. Wolfgang A. Herrmann, President of TUM.

Increasing the quality of doctoral degrees by means of graduate schools was a major core focus item in the first two rounds of the German Excellence Initiative. As early as 2009 the TUM Graduate School was established as an umbrella organization for TUM’s various graduate centers. It guarantees binding quality standards in a structured process: This includes an individually binding supervisory agreement, an interdisciplinary range of curricula as well as financial support for studying abroad. Membership in the TUM Graduate School is mandatory.

Graduate School supports studying abroad

Approximately two thirds of the graduates surveyed found the support for study abroad and interdisciplinary courses particularly beneficial in the spectrum offered by the TUM Graduate School. Asked about the importance of various skills when beginning their careers, most of the respondents saw their greatest strengths as "solving problems", "analytic thinking" and " team skills". In their opinion, communication skills was an area deserving more attention.

"We want to use the survey to tailor our qualification possibilities to the needs of doctoral students even more exactly," says Prof. Hans-Joachim Bungartz, Dean of the TUM Graduate School. "In order to further develop our educational range in a focused manner we have to understand even better the professional experience of our PhD graduates. The survey is an important first step towards capturing data with long-term significance on career paths after receiving the doctorate."

At present more than 6,000 talented young individuals are earning their doctorates at TUM, and more than 1,000 doctoral degrees are awarded each year.


European Science Foundation, 2017 Career Tracking Survey of Doctorate Holders: Project Report, 2017

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TUM Graduate School