U.S. doctorate awards
Each new cohort of doctorate recipients augments the supply of prospective scientists, engineers, researchers, and scholars. Data on the composition of these cohorts reveal changes in the presence of different demographic groups.
The number of research doctorate degrees awarded by U.S. institutions in 2018 increased to 55,195, according to the Survey of Earned Doctorates (SED) (figure 1). Since the survey’s inception, the number of doctorates awarded shows a strong upward trend—average annual growth of 3.2%—punctuated by periods of slow growth and even decline.
Since the SED began collecting data in 1957, the number of research doctorates awarded in science and engineering (S&E) fields has exceeded the number of non-S&E doctorates, and the gap has widened. From 1979 to 2018, the number of S&E doctorate recipients has more than doubled, while the number of non-S&E doctorates awarded in 2018 was just below the 1979 count. As a result, the proportion of S&E doctorates climbed from 58% in 1979 to 77% in 2018.
Doctorates awarded by U.S. colleges and universities: 1958–2018
S&E = science and engineering.
National Center for Science and Engineering Statistics, Survey of Earned Doctorates, 2018. Related detailed table 1.
In 2018, the number of doctorates in S&E fields awarded to temporary visa holders was 15,223, an increase of 1,099 from 2017 (figure 2). Overall growth was up 103% since 1999 and 21% since 2009. The proportion of S&E doctorates awarded to temporary visa holders peaked at 41% in 2007, but overall it has held steady at around 36% since 2011.
In comparison, the number of S&E doctorates awarded to U.S. citizens and permanent residents increased by only 27 doctorates from 2017 to 2018 and experienced a slower growth overall (38% since 1999 and 21% since 2009), though from a larger base.
Doctorates awarded in S&E fields, by citizenship: 1999–2018
Countries or economies of foreign citizenship
The number of doctorate recipients on temporary visas is highly concentrated in a few places of origin. In the past decade, 10 countries accounted for 71% of the 155,401 doctorates awarded to temporary visa holders, and the top three countries—China, India, and South Korea—accounted for over half (54%) (figure 3).
Top 10 countries or economies of foreign citizenship for doctorate recipients with temporary visas: 2009–18
Since 2002, women have earned a slim majority of all doctorates awarded to U.S. citizens and permanent residents and more than 31% of doctorates awarded to temporary visa holders (figure 4). From 1999 to 2008, the share of female doctorate recipients grew from 48% to 52% among U.S. citizens and permanent residents and from 27% to 35% among temporary visa holders. Since 2008, the shares of female doctorates in both citizenship categories have changed little. Overall, 46% of all doctorates in 2018 were awarded to women.
Sex and citizenship of doctorate recipients: 1999–2018
Field of study
Most of the growth in the number of doctorates earned by both men and women has been in S&E fields (figure 5). From 1999 to 2018, the number of female doctorate recipients in S&E fields increased by 81%, though starting from a small base, compared with 42% growth in the number of male S&E doctorates. Women’s share of S&E doctorates awarded increased from 37% in 1999 to 42% in 2009, and it has remained stable since then.
In non-S&E fields, 57% of doctorates were awarded to women in 2018, a share that has changed little since the early 2000s. The number of female non-S&E doctorate recipients declined by 2% between 1999 and 2018, whereas the number of male doctorates in those fields declined by 13%.
Sex and field of study of doctorate recipients: 1999–2018
Race and ethnicity
Participation in doctoral education by underrepresented minorities who are U.S. citizens or permanent residents has been increasing, though starting from a small number. From 2009 to 2018, the number of Hispanic or Latino doctorate recipients increased from 1,880 to 2,582. As a result, the proportion of doctorates earned by this group grew from 6% to 7% during this period. Also during this period, the number of black or African American doctorate recipients increased from 2,168 to 2,456, and the proportion of doctorates they earned remained stable at 7%. The number of American Indian or Alaska Native doctorate recipients declined from 132 in 2009 to 115 in 2018, remaining under 1% (figure 6).
Doctorates earned by underrepresented minority U.S. citizens and permanent residents: 2009–18
Excludes U.S. citizen and permanent resident respondents who did not report race or ethnicity. Hispanic may be any race; race categories exclude Hispanic origin.