Who earns a doctorate? More women, more foreigners, more minorities

The number of research doctorate degrees awarded by U.S. institutions in 2013 grew by 3.5 percent over the previous year, a single-year increase that has only been exceeded twice in the past two decades, according to a new report from the National Science Foundation’s (NSF) National Center for Science and Engineering Statistics (NCSES).

The report, Doctorate Recipients from U.S. Universities: 2013, presents data on degree recipients–broken down by categories including citizenship, sex, race and ethnicity, and field of study. NCSES provides detailed data tables and interactive charts for readers to explore online.

The report addresses six key questions: Who earns a U.S doctorate? Which fields attract students? What influences the path to the doctorate? What are the postgraduation trends? What draws students to an institution? And how do expenses and employment outcomes differ? Understanding those characteristics is necessary to make informed improvements in the country’s doctoral education system.

The report’s findings include the following:

  • Women earned 46 percent of all doctorates in 2013, and they have earned a majority of all doctorates awarded to U.S. citizens and permanent residents since 2002.
  • The proportion of doctorates awarded to black or African American students rose from 4.5 percent in 1993 to 6.4 percent in 2013; over the same period, doctorates awarded to Hispanics or Latinos rose from 3.4 percent to 6.3 percent.
  • Ten countries accounted for 70 percent of the doctorates awarded to temporary visa holders from 2003 to 2013 and the top three–China, India and South Korea–accounted for more than half.
  • The science and engineering fields accounted for 74 percent of the doctorates awarded in 2013, a substantially larger share than the 65 percent from 10 years earlier.

In every broad science and engineering field, the proportion of 2013 doctorate recipients who reported definite commitments for employment or postdoctorate study was at or near a 25-year-low; for non-S&E fields, that proportion reached a 20-year low.

The report is the latest presentation of an annual census of individuals who in 2013 received research doctorate degrees. The survey is sponsored by NSF, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, the National Endowment for the Humanities, the National Institutes of Health, the Department of Agriculture and the Department of Education.

Please visit the NSF’s National Center for Science and Engineering Statistics (NCSES) for more reports and other products.


Media Contacts
Rob Margetta, NSF, (703) 292-8070, rmargett@nsf.gov

Program Contacts
Mark K. Fiegener, NSF, (703) 292-4622, mfiegene@nsf.gov

The National Science Foundation (NSF) is an independent federal agency that supports fundamental research and education across all fields of science and engineering. In fiscal year (FY) 2015, its budget is $7.3 billion. NSF funds reach all 50 states through grants to nearly 2,000 colleges, universities and other institutions. Each year, NSF receives about 48,000 competitive proposals for funding, and makes about 11,000 new funding awards. NSF also awards about $626 million in professional and service contracts yearly.