Data source

The Survey of Earned Doctorates (SED) is the sole data source for Doctorate Recipients from U.S. Universities: 2020. The principal elements of the 2020 SED data collection are described in the sections that follow. More detailed information and related technical tables are available at

Survey eligibility. The SED collects information on research doctorate recipients only. Research doctorates require the completion of a dissertation or equivalent project, are oriented toward preparing students to make original intellectual contributions in a field of study, and are not primarily intended for the practice of a profession. The 2020 SED recognized 18 distinct types of research doctorates. In 2020, 98% of research doctorate recipients earned the PhD.

The population eligible for the 2020 survey consisted of all individuals who received a research doctorate from an accredited U.S. academic institution in the 12-month period from 1 July 2019 to 30 June 2020.

Survey universe. The total universe consisted of 55,283 persons in 449 institutions that conferred research doctorates in academic year 2020.

Data collection. Institutional coordinators at each doctorate awarding institution distributed the SED Web survey link to individuals receiving a research doctorate. In 2020, for the first time, the SED data collection did not use the self-administered paper questionnaire. Nonresponding graduates were contacted by e-mail and mail, with the URL of the SED Web survey. If a series of follow-up e-mails and mailings is unsuccessful, the survey contractor attempts to reach nonrespondents to complete an abbreviated survey by computer-assisted telephone interviewing. RTI International served as the 2020 SED data collection contractor on behalf of NCSES.

Survey response rates. In 2020, 92.1% of research doctorate recipients completed the survey. Limited records (field of study, doctoral institution, and sex) are constructed for nonrespondents from administrative records of the university—commencement programs, graduation lists, and other public records—and are included in the reported total of doctorate recipients. The survey response rates for 1980–2020 and the item response rates for 2010–20 are provided in the technical tables.

Time series data changes. After a multiyear review of Doctor of Education (EdD) degree programs participating in the SED, 143 programs were reclassified from research doctorate to professional doctorate over the 2010–11 period. No additional reclassifications of EdD degree programs are planned. SED data are no longer being collected from graduates earning degrees from the reclassified EdD programs, and this has affected the reporting of the number of doctorates awarded by sex, citizenship, race, and ethnicity. Several figures in this report show the impact of the decline in number of doctoral degrees awarded in education from 2009 to 2011 (see figure 8 and figure 12 in the section “Fields of study,” and figure 22 in the section “Postgraduation trends”). Readers should note that the declines from 2009 to 2010 and from 2010 to 2011 are at least partly attributable to the EdD reclassification.

Data license. Microdata from the SED may be obtained through a restricted-use data license (see