Most of the people who read this blog are interested in quantum computers, and some of them are even interested in pursuing careers in quantum computing. So let me try to describe here the current QC job market.
Prof. Todd Brun, a very considerate chap, maintains a fairly complete list of available jobs in quantum information processing (QIP)(quantum computing is considered a subset of QIP.) Brun’s list currently contains
- 10 ads for post doctoral positions
- 0 ads for faculty positions or permanent positions at government labs.
- 1 ad for an industrial job, albeit in the bogus field of quantum cryptography
- 0 ads for co-ops or internships. No ads for this one is particularly disturbing to me.
As you can see, QC faculty position are extremely rare, a vanishing species. I don’t know the exact numbers but my guess is that about only 1 out of every 20 QC postdocs ultimately gets a tenured faculty position. And postdocs can look forward to 2 to 4 postdoctoral jobs (each lasting 2 years). Of those fortunate enough to finally get an assistant professorship at a university, maybe half(?) will be denied tenure.
Many talented people interested in quantum computing, people who could greatly advance the QC field, choose not to enter it, or they leave it prematurely. Who can blame them. The QC academic career path is so risky and taxing, and, unfortunately, there is no other QC game in town. There are currently no QC career paths besides the academic one. It would be nice if industry were providing alternative careers in QC, but this is not happening at present. Industrial QC jobs are currently more rare than the dodo bird.
In my opinion, American industry could be and should be creating at least a few QC jobs right now, but they are failing to do so.
- If you look at who is currently making important contributions to experimental quantum computing, you won’t find the names of any big hardware companies like IBM, Intel and HP, or of any startups. Instead, you’ll find only names of universities and NIST. (D-Wave is the only shining exception to this rule).
- You would think that big software companies like Google and Microsoft or maybe startups would be busy producing software for QCs, but no. (Hartmut Neven et al, from Google, wrote a bit of software for D-Wave’s machine circa Dec 2009, but I don’t know if that work is ongoing, and Neven must be too busy as head of Google Goggles to devote much time to QCs). (Microsoft has a small group of people (StationQ) working on QCs, but they are mostly abstract mathematicians trying to do experimental physics. Sort of like cats trying to act like dogs :). I don’t think they are writing any QC software).
American industry is conducting almost no QC research. They want government-funded projects to do all the research and invention. After the government does all the heavy lifting, they want to reap the rewards themselves. It’s an example of industry expecting our government to fully fund activities which are not the responsibility of a government. Such attitudes on the part of industry are very unhealthy for our country, because they slow technological progress and inflate government debt. Such attitudes are also a bad business decision which delays or diminishes the profit for businesses.