Saturday, October 13, 2007

Climatologists- in it for the money?

One of the recurring themes in anti-global warming arguments is that earth scientists are hyping global warming so that they can get rich off of the increased research funding. The recent Nobel Prize results will probably initiate yet another round of motive questioning. Unlike some of the wishy-washier arguments made against climate change, this one is testable.

Suppose a college graduate in geology is looking to earn some money. Is climatology his best bet? For recent graduates, the next step towards a climatology career is a PhD. So, how do climatology PhD scholarships compare with other career options available to graduate geologists?

Well, PhD scholarships can be quite variable. This one gives A$19930 per year for three years. I found several other Australian universities that offer scholarships between $19,500 and $20,000 per year

Things in Europe are a bit more lucrative- this mob is offering 38,000 euros per year- more than twice as much.

I haven’t seen any American stipend figures in my brief net search, but my impression is that they are generally even lower than the Australian examples.

So, what other options does a freshly minted geologist have?

With a bachelor’s degree, a college grad is qualified for a junior position in the resource industry. But are these positions comparable with a PhD scholarship? After all, that European stipend looks pretty cushy. Here are a few entry level jobs advertised on, a popular Australian job site:

Coal mining: $100,000 - $160,000 (experience preferred, but graduates encouraged to apply)

Nickel- $85-$115K

Unknown type- $95-$125K (this actually asks for 1 year experience, so is not strictly a graduate level job)

Iron ore $80-$110K

Admittedly, most junior positions listed don’t name a figure, and people in the know say that $60,000-$75,000 is a more realistic expectation for a graduate with no work experience or advanced qualification. So there seems to be a selection bias in the ads that list potential salary figures. However, I expect that the same may be true of PhD programs.

So, if we assume a conservative Australian industry starting salary of $60,000, and compare that with an Australian PhD scholarship of $20,000, then it appears that those money grubbing climatologists are earning about a third of what they could get working in the resource industry.

Of course, climatologists won’t be students forever. In five years, they could be post-docs, earning about $50,000. In a comparable period of time, a senior geologist should be looking at about $150,000, still three times the academic salary.

Thus, the hypothesis that climatologists are in it for the money does not stand up to quantitative analysis. At least at the moment, an industrial career is several times more lucrative than an academic one.


Kim said...

You could argue that plate tectonics is bogus because tectonics researchers are all in it for the money, too. They get grants to do the research, after all. And it would be pretty difficult to get funding for a study based on geosynclines or an expanding earth.

Yami McMoots said...

You forget, though, that in industry you have to do Real Work. Academics just fart around and pick their noses all day.