Which fields attract students?

As researchers expand their understanding of the world, new fields of study emerge and existing fields change. Observing which fields of study are attracting growing proportions of students can provide early insight into where future research breakthroughs may occur.

Temporary visa holders

Doctorates awarded, by citizenship and broad field of study: 1998 and 2017

The share of doctorates awarded to temporary visa holders increased in every broad field of study over the past 20 years. In 2017, temporary visa holders earned the majority of doctorates awarded in engineering and in mathematics and computer sciences.

S&E = science and engineering.

Note(s)

Percentages are based on the number of doctorate recipients for whom citizenship was reported.

Source(s)

National Science Foundation, National Center for Science and Engineering Statistics, Doctorate Recipients from U.S. Universities: 2017. Related detailed data: table ​17.

Minority U.S. citizens and permanent residents

Doctorates awarded to minority U.S. citizens and permanent residents, by race, ethnicity, and broad field of study: 2017

Among minority U.S. citizens and permanent residents, doctorate recipients of different racial or ethnic backgrounds are more heavily represented in some fields of study than in others. In 2017, Asians earned more doctorates than other racial and ethnic minority groups in life sciences, physical sciences and earth sciences, mathematics and computer sciences, and engineering. Blacks or African Americans were the largest U.S. minority population in education. Hispanics or Latinos earned a larger share of doctorates in psychology and social sciences and in humanities and arts than did any other minority group.

S&E = science and engineering.

Note(s)

Hispanic or Latino may be any race. Missing data have been suppressed for reasons of confidentiality.

Source(s)

National Science Foundation, National Center for Science and Engineering Statistics, Doctorate Recipients from U.S. Universities: 2017. Related detailed data: table ​23 and table ​24.

Women

Share of doctorates awarded to women, by broad field of study: 1998–2017

Field of study

Women’s share of doctorates awarded has grown over the past 2 decades in all broad fields of study. In 2017, women earned the majority of doctorates awarded in life sciences, psychology and social sciences, education, and humanities and arts.

Though women earned about a fourth of the 2017 doctorates awarded in engineering and in mathematics and computer sciences and a third of the doctorates in physical sciences and earth sciences, their relative shares of doctorates awarded in those fields has been growing. From 1998 to 2017, women’s share has nearly doubled in engineering (from 13% to 25%) and grown considerably in life sciences (from 46% to 55%) and in physical sciences and earth sciences (from 25% to 33%). Growth in mathematics and computer sciences and in psychology and social sciences has been more modest (from 22% to 25% and from 55% to 59%, respectively).

S&E = science and engineering.

Note(s)

Percentages are based on the number of doctorate recipients for whom sex was reported.

Source(s)

National Science Foundation, National Center for Science and Engineering Statistics, Doctorate Recipients from U.S. Universities: 2017. Related detailed data: table ​14 through table ​16.

Fastest changing fields of study for female U.S. doctorate recipients, by broad field of study: 2008–17

Growing subfields

The subfields of doctoral study showing the largest relative growth in numbers of female doctorate recipients over the past decade have been materials science engineering and other engineering; geosciences, atmospheric sciences, and ocean sciences; and agricultural sciences and natural resources. Over the same period, the number of women doctorate recipients declined in education research.

S&E = science and engineering.

Source(s)

National Science Foundation, National Center for Science and Engineering Statistics, Doctorate Recipients from U.S. Universities: 2017. Related detailed data: table ​15.