U.S. doctorate awards

Each new cohort of doctorate recipients increases 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.

Overall trends

The number of research doctorate degrees awarded by U.S. institutions in 2019 increased to 55,703, 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 2019, the number of S&E doctorate recipients has more than doubled, while the number of non-S&E doctorates awarded in 2019 declined to just below the 1979 count. As a result, the proportion of S&E doctorates climbed from 58% in 1979 to 77% in 2019.

Doctorates awarded by U.S. colleges and universities: 1958–2019

(Number)
Year S&E fields Non-S&E fields Total
1958 5,751 3,022 8,773
1959 6,043 3,170 9,213
1960 6,388 3,345 9,733
1961 6,872 3,541 10,413
1962 7,612 3,888 11,500
1963 8,422 4,306 12,728
1964 9,462 4,863 14,325
1965 10,706 5,634 16,340
1966 11,732 6,217 17,949
1967 13,274 7,129 20,403
1968 14,824 8,113 22,937
1969 16,574 9,169 25,743
1970 18,458 11,040 29,498
1971 19,869 11,998 31,867
1972 19,752 13,289 33,041
1973 19,808 13,947 33,755
1974 19,137 13,910 33,047
1975 19,210 13,742 32,952
1976 18,821 14,125 32,946
1977 18,298 13,418 31,716
1978 17,952 12,923 30,875
1979 18,213 13,025 31,238
1980 18,169 12,850 31,019
1981 18,713 12,642 31,355
1982 18,736 12,372 31,108
1983 19,117 12,163 31,280
1984 19,285 12,049 31,334
1985 19,504 11,791 31,295
1986 20,064 11,833 31,897
1987 20,558 11,807 32,365
1988 21,675 11,822 33,497
1989 22,565 11,760 34,325
1990 23,689 12,376 36,065
1991 24,894 12,636 37,530
1992 25,616 13,270 38,886
1993 26,449 13,351 39,800
1994 27,304 13,730 41,034
1995 27,663 14,084 41,747
1996 28,405 14,032 42,437
1997 28,486 14,053 42,539
1998 28,592 14,044 42,636
1999 27,147 13,953 41,100
2000 27,378 13,991 41,369
2001 26,896 13,848 40,744
2002 26,088 13,943 40,031
2003 26,713 14,049 40,762
2004 27,794 14,328 42,122
2005 29,578 13,807 43,385
2006 31,584 14,036 45,620
2007 33,758 14,374 48,132
2008 34,717 14,059 48,776
2009 35,313 14,239 49,552
2010 34,997 13,031 48,028
2011 36,331 12,578 48,909
2012 37,846 13,097 50,943
2013 39,031 13,672 52,703
2014 40,630 13,356 53,986
2015 41,175 13,711 54,886
2016 41,240 13,569 54,809
2017 41,290 13,264 54,554
2018 42,158 12,945 55,103
2019 42,980 12,723 55,703

S&E = science and engineering.

Source(s):

National Center for Science and Engineering Statistics, Survey of Earned Doctorates, 2019. Related detailed table 1.

Citizenship

Overview

In 2019, the number of doctorates in S&E fields awarded to temporary visa holders was 15,801, an increase of 595 from 2018 (figure 2). Overall growth of doctorates awarded to temporary visa holders was up 99% since 2000 and 35% since 2010. Over the same period, the proportion of S&E doctorates awarded to temporary visa holders peaked at 41% in 2007, held steady at about 36% between 2010 and 2017, but increased to 38% in 2019.

In comparison, although starting from a larger base, the number of S&E doctorates awarded to U.S. citizens and permanent residents increased by 290 doctorates from 2018 to 2019 and experienced a slower relative growth overall (42% since 2000 and 20% since 2010).

Doctorates awarded in S&E fields, by citizenship: 2000–19

(Number)
Year U.S. citizens or permanent residents Temporary visa holders
2000 18,173 7,950
2001 17,361 8,244
2002 16,608 8,000
2003 16,831 8,685
2004 16,879 9,494
2005 17,177 10,761
2006 18,073 11,941
2007 18,635 12,762
2008 19,869 13,045
2009 21,103 12,570
2010 21,406 11,675
2011 21,963 12,185
2012 22,857 12,729
2013 23,461 13,435
2014 23,883 13,725
2015 24,518 14,010
2016 25,060 14,313
2017 25,445 14,121
2018 25,428 15,206
2019 25,718 15,801

S&E = science and engineering.

Note(s):

Excludes respondents who did not report citizenship.

Source(s):

National Center for Science and Engineering Statistics, Survey of Earned Doctorates, 2019. Related detailed table 17 and table 18.

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 70% of the 158,996 doctorates awarded to temporary visa holders, and the top three countries—China, India, and South Korea—accounted for over half (53%) (figure 3). Between 70% and 95% of doctorate recipients from these countries earned a doctorate in an S&E field.

Top 10 countries of foreign citizenship for doctorate recipients with temporary visas: 2010–19

(Number)
Country or economy S&E fields Non-S&E fields
China 46,791 3,876
India 20,363 1,193
South Korea 9,405 3,349
Taiwan 5,098 1,061
Iran 5,201 305
Turkey 3,772 834
Canada 3,086 1,350
Thailand 1,892 263
Saudi Arabia 1,460 531
Mexico 1,630 307

S&E = science and engineering.

Note(s):

China includes Hong Kong. Ranking based on total number of doctorate recipients.

Source(s):

National Center for Science and Engineering Statistics, Survey of Earned Doctorates, 2019. Related detailed table 25 and table 26.

Sex

Citizenship

Overall, 46% of all doctorates in 2019 were awarded to women. Since 2002, women have earned just over half 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 2000 to 2008, the share of female doctorate recipients grew from 49% to 52% among U.S. citizens and permanent residents and from 29% to 35% among temporary visa holders. Since 2008, the shares of female doctorates in both citizenship categories have changed little.

Sex and citizenship of doctorate recipients: 2000–19

(Number)
Year Male U.S. citizens or permanent residents Male temporary visa holders Female U.S. citizens or permanent residents Female temporary visa holders
2000 15,304 6,856 14,643 2,810
2001 14,684 7,011 14,209 2,800
2002 13,779 6,765 13,957 2,977
2003 13,920 7,257 14,250 3,340
2004 13,770 7,913 14,270 3,715
2005 13,586 8,749 14,357 4,079
2006 14,266 9,398 14,762 4,800
2007 14,240 9,994 15,260 5,128
2008 14,774 9,984 16,069 5,277
2009 15,508 9,564 16,818 5,167
2010 15,275 8,768 16,327 4,868
2011 15,396 9,179 16,329 5,056
2012 16,072 9,556 16,909 5,224
2013 16,550 10,103 17,414 5,571
2014 16,660 10,204 17,343 5,633
2015 17,218 10,395 17,853 5,734
2016 17,530 10,671 18,147 5,805
2017 17,552 10,600 18,183 5,686
2018 17,308 11,311 18,033 6,273
2019 17,279 11,783 17,994 6,567
Note(s):

Excludes respondents who did not report sex or citizenship.

Source(s):

National Center for Science and Engineering Statistics, Survey of Earned Doctorates, 2019. Related detailed table 20 and table 21.

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 2000 to 2019, the number of female doctorate recipients in S&E fields increased by 75%, though starting from a small base, compared with 47% growth in the number of male S&E doctorates. Women’s share of S&E doctorates awarded increased from 38% in 2000 to 42% in 2009, and it has remained stable since then.

In non-S&E fields, 58% of doctorates were awarded to women in 2019, a share that has changed little since the late 2000s. The number of female non-S&E doctorate recipients declined by 5% between 2000 and 2019, while the number of male doctorate recipients in those fields declined by 15%.

Sex and field of study of doctorate recipients: 2000–19

(Number)
Year Male, S&E fields Male, non-S&E fields Female, S&E fields Female, non-S&E fields
2000 16,945 6,220 10,376 7,755
2001 16,622 6,158 10,220 7,667
2002 15,802 6,004 10,236 7,904
2003 16,196 6,060 10,517 7,989
2004 16,836 6,129 10,957 8,198
2005 17,869 5,868 11,665 7,917
2006 18,886 6,134 12,676 7,883
2007 20,120 6,082 13,622 8,282
2008 20,419 5,852 14,289 8,205
2009 20,346 5,985 14,937 8,250
2010 20,075 5,449 14,912 7,576
2011 20,902 5,286 15,411 7,288
2012 21,761 5,601 16,041 7,485
2013 22,448 5,878 16,573 7,792
2014 23,302 5,706 17,189 7,624
2015 23,703 5,829 17,467 7,880
2016 23,915 5,657 17,314 7,908
2017 23,558 5,523 17,715 7,736
2018 24,248 5,506 17,891 7,430
2019 24,836 5,315 18,136 7,406

S&E = science and engineering.

Note(s):

Excludes respondents who did not report sex.

Source(s):

National Center for Science and Engineering Statistics, Survey of Earned Doctorates, 2019. Related detailed table 14 through table 16.

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 2010 to 2019, the number of Hispanic or Latino doctorate recipients increased from 1,842 to 2,848. As a result, the proportion of doctorates earned by this group grew from 6% to 8% during this period. Also during this period, the number of Black or African American doctorate recipients increased from 1,939 to 2,512, and the proportion of doctorates they earned increased from 6% to 7%. The number of American Indian or Alaska Native doctorate recipients changed little, from 117 in 2010 to 120 in 2019, remaining under 1% (figure 6).

Doctorates earned by underrepresented minority U.S. citizens and permanent residents: 2010–19

(Number)
Year American Indian or Alaska Native Black or African American Hispanic or Latino
2010 117 1,939 1,842
2011 127 1,899 1,989
2012 104 2,055 2,144
2013 119 2,172 2,135
2014 103 2,172 2,190
2015 131 2,275 2,449
2016 128 2,358 2,548
2017 109 2,399 2,537
2018 115 2,450 2,570
2019 120 2,512 2,848
Note(s):

Excludes U.S. citizen and permanent resident respondents who did not report race or ethnicity.

Source(s):

National Center for Science and Engineering Statistics, Survey of Earned Doctorates, 2019. Related detailed table 19 and table 22 through table 24.