The Trade-Offs of Teamwork Among STEM Doctoral Graduates

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Teamwork has increasingly become prevalent in professional fields such as academic science, perhaps partly because research shows that teams tend to produce superior work.Although research on teamwork has typically focused on its impact on work products, we complement that work by examining the degree to which teamwork influences salary, hours worked, and overall job satisfaction. Drawing on microdata collected through the National Science Foundation’s Survey of Doctorate Recipients as well as the Survey of Earned Doctorates, we find that doctoral degree holders in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) fields tend to earn substantially higher salaries and work more hours when they engage in teamwork. We also find no comparable difference in overall job satisfaction as a function of whether individuals work within teams. Additionally, we find evidence that age interacts significantly with teamwork, whereby older teamworkers tend to earn relatively more when participating in teams without appearing to work more hours; and we show that employment sector is important, whereby teamwork is relevant for salaries and hours worked in education and industry but not in government. Although our study is based on market outcomes and behavioral measures, our findings provide grounds for future research that examines the psychological mechanisms that are relevant to understanding why people join teams as well as the psychological consequences that people encounter through teamwork. More generally, this study provides a model for considering individual-level antecedents and outcomes associated with teamwork when degrees of discretion exist with respect to teaming.

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