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Academic careers of researchers

fact sheet
02 October 2023
Academic careers research
In this factsheet we describe some characteristics of the academic career: the job classification, men and women in science and internationalization.

In short

  • The Netherlands counts 3,108 professors, 2,920 senior university lecturers, 6,581 university lecturers and 10,596 doctorate candidates (fte, 2022)
  • Women are in the minority, but the share of women in science is rising slowly.
  • The share of foreign researchers in the Netherlands is growing.

Academic job structure

Dutch universities divide their staff into two main groups: academic staff and support and management staff. In this publication, we will mainly discuss the academic staff.

The academic job structure resembles a pyramid. At the base, there are two large groups of young employees: PhD students as starting positions and researchers (postdocs) and lecturers as transfer positions. Above them are the university lecturers and the associate professors. At the top of the academic career house are the professors.

On average, PhD candidates are 29.5 years old when they finish their PhD. Starting university lecturers are on average 37 years old, associate professors on average 42 years old and full professors on average 49 years old. So on average it takes about 19 years from promotion to full professor (see also the fact sheet Factsheet Women in academia).

The academic staff at Dutch universities in figures in 2022:

  • 10,596 FTE PhDs (33% of the total scientific staff)
  • 6,581 FTE assistant professors (21%)
  • 4,098 FTE researchers (13%)
  • 3,108 FTE teachers (13%)
  • 3,108 FTE professors (10%)
  • 2,920 FTE associate professors (9%)
  • 328 FTE other scientific staff (1%)

The figure below show the number of scientific personnel per category from 2005 onwards.


Academic staff rising faster than support and management staff

In the graph below, we compare the complete academic staff with the complete support and management staff. Academic staff grew from 19,610 fte in 2005 to 31,776 fte in 2021. Support and management staff increased from 16,419 FTE to 22,669 FTE. Support and management staff did not grow at the same rate as academic staff. In 2005, there were 84 support staff for every 100 scientists. In 2022, there were 71 support staff for every 100 scientists.

Dynamics of the academic job market

The job market for academic staff is highly dynamic, with staff regularly moving to more senior positions, or to a similar position at another university (reference date 31 december 2011). They also move in and out of positions in academia and other sectors. This applies less to associate professor positions, 80% of which are filled by academics already on the university career path. In the case of assistant professors and professors, 40% of all new appointees are not from within the university system. Almost 10% of professorships change incumbent each year, 12% of associate professors positions change hands, and 15% of assistant professor posts.

The same dynamism is seen in staff leaving academia. A third of professors who leave their post do so because they have reached retirement age, while two-thirds take a job outside the Dutch academic world. 43% of associate professors leaving their post do so because of a promotion to professor, 32% leave the university and the rest retire. Among assistant professors, a higher proportion leave (47%) than are promoted to the post of associate professor or professor within the same university (37%).

There is even more dynamism among other academic staff (including postdocs). More than one in four leave each year, with only a relatively small proportion (18%) moving on to a more senior position in the university (assistant professor, associate professor or professor).

Less women in academia

Women are underrepresented in academic jobs: the more senior the position, the smaller the proportion of women. The share of female scientific staff in 2022 can be found below:

  • 45% female PhDs
  • 53% female teachers
  • 41% female researchers
  • 36% female other scientific staff
  • 46% female assistant professors 
  • 34% female associate professors
  • 28% female professors

The figure below shows the differences between the categories from 2005 onwards. The total proportion of women has slowly increased in recent years. The ratio of PhD students and lecturers, researchers and other academic staff seems to stabilise from 2012 onwards.



Dutch science is becoming more and more international. This is also shown in the figure below. The share of non-Dutch scientists in all positions is gradually increasing. By now, 55% of the PhD students and almost 50% of the university lecturers are foreign.