Education Progress

Who earns S&E doctoral degrees in the United States?

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Who earns S&E doctoral degrees in the United States?

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Notes:
S&E = science and engineering. S&E includes biological/agricultural sciences, physical sciences, computer sciences, mathematics/statistics, engineering, psychology, and social sciences. Physical sciences = chemistry, physics, astronomy, and earth/ocean/atmospheric sciences.
At the doctoral level only, S&E also includes medical/other life science degrees.
Notes:
Racial/ethnic groups include U.S. citizens and permanent residents only; they do not include foreign nationals with temporary visas.
S&E = science and engineering. S&E includes biological/agricultural sciences, physical sciences, computer sciences, mathematics/statistics, engineering, psychology, and social sciences. Physical sciences = chemistry, physics, astronomy, and earth/ocean/atmospheric sciences.
At the doctoral level only, S&E also includes medical/other life science degrees.

Main Finding

The annual number of S&E doctorates conferred by U.S. universities increased rapidly between 2003 and 2007, and faster for women than for men. Growth slowed but reached a decade high of 41,480 S&E doctorates awarded in 2008, followed by a small decline to 41,111 S&E doctorates awarded in 2009.

Among U.S. citizens and permanent residents, the annual number of S&E doctoral degrees earned by every racial/ethnic group shows significant growth over the last decade, especially after 2003.

Key Observations

  • Among U.S. citizens and permanent residents, women received a majority of the S&E doctorates awarded from 2004 to 2009.
  • Women earned a substantial majority of the doctorates awarded in psychology, biological sciences, and medical/other life sciences. Men earned a large majority of the doctorates awarded in computer/mathematical sciences, physical sciences, and engineering, although women have increased their shares of physical science and engineering doctorates since 2000.
  • Between 2000 and 2009, the percentage of S&E doctorates awarded to temporary residents rose from 30% to 32%.
  • Male temporary residents earned more than twice as many S&E doctorates as female temporary residents in 2009 (8,956 vs. 4,402). However, female temporary residents increased their number of S&E doctoral awards by 105% between 2000 and 2009, compared to a 42% increase for male temporary residents.
  • When both citizenship groups are combined, women account for 47% of all S&E doctoral awards in 2009, a little below their percentage of the U.S. college-age population (49%).
  • Of the minority groups, Asians/Pacific Islanders earned the most S&E doctorates in 2009: 2,394 degrees, compared to 1,451 for blacks, 1,335 for Hispanics, and 154 for American Indians/Alaska Natives.
  • The number of S&E doctoral degrees earned in 2009, compared to the number in 2000, represents an increase of 88% for American Indians/Alaska Natives 77% for blacks, 72% for Hispanics, and 40% for Asians/Pacific Islanders.
  • In comparison, the number of S&E doctorates earned by whites increased by 34% between 2000 (14,975 degrees) and 2009 (20,004 degrees).
  • Whites’ share of S&E doctoral degrees gradually declined over the decade, from 77% in 2000 to 72% in 2009, as the shares for all minority groups grew. In 2009, Asians/Pacific Islanders earned 9% of all S&E doctorates, Hispanics and blacks 5% each, and American Indians/Alaska Natives 0.6%.
  • Whites and Asians/Pacific Islanders are overrepresented among recipients of S&E doctorates compared to their proportions in the U.S. college-age population (57% and 5%, respectively). The other minority groups are quite underrepresented relative to their proportions in the college-age population: Hispanics 20%, blacks 14%, American Indians/Alaska Natives 0.9%.