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2004 Doctorate Awards Increase in Science and Engineering Fields for the Second Year in a Row
NSF 06-301 | November 2005 | PDF format PDF format  

Note: Table 1 was revised following initial release. (December 9, 2005)

In 2004, total doctorate awards in science and engineering (S&E) increased for the second year in a row, up to 26,275. After reaching an all-time high in 1998 (27,278), the number of S&E doctorate awards generally declined until 2002 (to around 24,600). Although there was an increase for two successive academic years, there is not yet sufficient evidence for determining if there is a new trend (figure 1).

FIGURE 1. Doctorate awards in S&E and non-S&E fields: 1995-2004.
  Figure 1 Source Data: Excel file

The demographic characteristics of persons awarded research doctorates from U.S. universities were different in 2004 than in 1995. In 2004, women comprised 45 percent of doctorate recipients, up from 39 percent in 1995. While non-U.S. citizens comprised about a third of doctorate recipients in both years, there were changes among U.S. citizens. Both Asian and underrepresented racial/ethnic minority groups were a larger share of doctorates in the 2004 graduating class than in 1995 (table 1).

TABLE 1. Doctorate awards, by selected characteristics of doctorate recipients: 1995 and 2004.
  Table 1 Source Data: Excel file

The 2004 count of doctorate awards (5,937) in the largest S&E field – biological sciences—brought it higher than the previous peak in 2000 (table 2). Physical sciences, psychology, and engineering in 2004 were still well below their past peaks. For non-S&E fields as a whole, the 2004 total of 15,880 was the all-time high. The number of non-S&E doctorates has grown since 1995, primarily in health fields.

TABLE 2.  Doctorates awarded, by major field of study: 1995–2004.
  Table 2 Source Data: Excel file

Physics has shown the least recovery toward past peak levels of any science field.[1] From about 1,480 in 1995 and 1996 to the total of 1,186 in 2004, physics dropped about 20 percent. The drop in physics doctorate recipients since 1995 has been strongest among male U.S. citizens (236 of the total decline of 293 from 1995 to 2004) (table 3). The number of doctorates in physics also declined among noncitizens, with significant declines in doctorates awarded to persons from China, India, Korea, and Taiwan, somewhat counterbalanced by increases in physics doctorate awards to persons from Russia, Romania, Italy, Turkey, Bulgaria, and Ukraine.

TABLE 3.  Doctorate awards in physics, by selected characteristics and countries/economies of doctorate recipients: 1995 and 2004.
  Table 3 Source Data: Excel file

Some fields of science and engineering have large proportions of doctorates awarded to persons with citizenship outside the United States. In physics, engineering, mathematics, and computer science, more than 50 percent of doctorate recipients are not U.S. citizens (figure 2).

FIGURE 2. U.S. doctorate recipients who were non-U.S. citizens, by field of study: 2004.
  Figure 2 Source Data: Excel file

Data Notes

The data presented here are from the Survey of Earned Doctorates (SED) for academic year 2004 (July 2003 to June 2004). All persons completing requirements for research doctorates from universities in the United States (including Puerto Rico) are eligible for the SED; the survey response rate in 2004 was 91 percent of the 42,155 new doctorate recipients. The field of study information used in this report was obtained for all research doctorates from the respondents or from commencement books for nonrespondents.

This survey is sponsored by six federal agencies: National Science Foundation, National Institutes of Health, U.S. Department of Education, U.S. Department of Agriculture, National Endowment for the Humanities, and National Aeronautics and Space Administration. Additional data on doctorates from all fields of study, including humanities, education, health and other fields, and the survey methodology are available in the interagency-sponsored report Doctorate Recipients from U.S. Universities: Summary Report 2004 at: http://www.norc.uchicago.edu/issues/docdata.htm.

More detailed data on science and engineering doctorate recipients and the survey are available from NSF in the forthcoming report Science and Engineering Doctorate Awards: 2004 at http://www.nsf.gov/statistics/doctorates.

This InfoBrief was prepared by

Susan T. Hill
Human Resources Statistics Program
Division of Science Resources Statistics
National Science Foundation
4201 Wilson Boulevard, Suite 965
Arlington, VA 22230



[1] It should be noted that graduate enrollment in physics has been increasing since fall 2000, so the number of doctorate awards may reverse the declines seen in the recent past. (See National Science Foundation, Division of Science Resources Statistics, Graduate Enrollment in Science and Engineering Programs Up in 2003, but Declines for First-Time Foreign Students, NSF-05-317, table 2.)

National Science Foundation, Division of Science Resources Statistics
2004 Doctorate Awards Increase in Science and Engineering Fields for the Second Year in a Row
Arlington, VA (NSF 06-301) [November 2005]

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