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U.S. Doctoral Awards in Science and Engineering Continue Upward Trend in 2006

NSF 08-301 | November 2007 | PDF format PDF  

U.S. institutions awarded 29,854 science and engineering (S&E) doctorates in 2006, a record high. The 2006 rise in S&E doctoral awards, 6.7% over 2005, is the fourth consecutive increase (figure 1, table 1). S&E fields reaching all-time high counts in 2006 were biological sciences, computer sciences, mathematics, chemistry, social sciences, and engineering.

FIGURE 1. Doctorates awarded in science and engineering and non-science and engineering fields: 1997–2006.

  Figure 1 Source Data: Excel file

TABLE 1. Doctorates awarded, by major field of study: 1997–2006.

  Table 1 Source Data: Excel file

A total of 15,742 doctorates in non-S&E fields were awarded in 2006, an increase over the 2005 count but a slight decline from the record number of 15,848 in 2004. Awards in health fields increased to their highest point in the last 10 years (1,906), whereas the count in education was at an all-time low in the same period (6,124).

From 1997 to 2006, awards of S&E doctorates grew by 9.6%, with increases concentrated in the last 4 years of the period. In the same 10-year period, awards of doctorates in all fields grew by 7.2%, whereas awards in non-S&E fields remained relatively level; thus, increases in S&E fields account for most of the growth in doctorates awarded.


S&E doctoral awards increased in nearly all demographic groups in 2006, most notably among women (8.8%) and among non-U.S. citizens (10.9%), a category that includes permanent residents and temporary visa holders (table 2). The increase in awards to non-U.S. citizens was almost three times larger than that to U.S. citizens (3.7%). Since 2002, most demographic groups have shown substantial growth, in particular non-U.S. citizens (44.1%) and women (25.0%). Among U.S. citizens, the number of awards to Hispanics has increased in the last 5 years (20.6%), whereas awards to American Indians/Alaska Natives have declined (-28.8%).

TABLE 2. Science and engineering doctorates awarded, by selected characteristics of recipients: 2002–06.

  Table 2 Source Data: Excel file

In 2006, 15,947 doctorates were awarded to non-U.S. citizens, including 1,829 to individuals who were permanent residents and 14,118 who were in the United States on a temporary visa (table 3). Awards to non-U.S. citizens constituted 37.2% of awards to all doctorate recipients in 2006 who reported citizenship status and 45.2% of awards to those in S&E fields who reported citizenship status (figure 2).

TABLE 3. Doctorates awarded to non-U.S. citizens, by field of study: 1997–2006.

  Table 3 Source Data: Excel file

FIGURE 2. Non-U.S. citizens' share of doctorates awarded, by field of study: 2006.

  Figure 2 Source Data: Excel file

Non-U.S. citizens accounted for more than half of all doctorate recipients in each of the engineering fields and in computer sciences (64.8%), mathematics (57.2%), and physics (58.0%). The proportion of awards to non-U.S citizens was largest in engineering (67.7%), particularly in electrical engineering (77.3%), civil engineering (73.5%), and industrial/manufacturing engineering (72.4%). Citizens of China constituted 26.6% of all engineering doctorate recipients with known citizenship status; citizens of India and Korea represented 10.4% and 7.4%, respectively.

For all S&E fields combined, the highest numbers of non-U.S. citizen doctorate recipients were from China, India, and Korea (table 4).

TABLE 4. Top 10 countries/economies of citizenship of non-U.S. citizens earning science and engineering doctorates at U.S. institutions: 2006.

  Table 4 Source Data: Excel file

U.S. citizens earned 26,917 doctoral awards in 2006 (62.8% of all doctorate recipients with known citizenship status). The share of awards to U.S. citizens was largest in non-S&E fields, particularly in education (87.1%) (percentages earned by U.S. citizens are complements of those shown in figure 2).

Data Notes

The data presented here are from the Survey of Earned Doctorates (SED) for academic year 2006 (1 July
2005 to 30 June 2006). Each individual completing requirements for a research doctorate from a university in the United States or Puerto Rico receives the SED. In 2006, 92.1% of the 45,596 new doctorate recipients completed the survey. The field of study information used in this report was obtained for all doctorate recipients in 2006; information on sex was obtained for 99.8%, race/ethnicity for 93.4%, citizenship status for 94.0%, and country of citizenship for 93.9%.

This survey is sponsored by six federal agencies: the National Science Foundation, the National Institutes of Health, the U.S. Department of Education, the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the National Endowment for the Humanities, and the National Aeronautics and Space Administration. Additional data for all fields of study are available in the interagency report Doctorate Recipients from U.S. Universities: Summary Report 2006.

The full set of detailed tables from this survey will be available in the report Science and Engineering Doctorate Awards: 2006 at http://www.nsf.gov/statistics/doctorates/. For further information, contact

Jaquelina C. Falkenheim
Human Resources Statistics Program
Division of Science Resources Statistics
National Science Foundation
4201 Wilson Boulevard, Suite 965
Arlington, VA 22230


National Science Foundation, Division of Science Resources Statistics
U.S. Doctoral Awards in Science and Engineering Continue Upward Trend in 2006
Arlington, VA (NSF 08-301) [November 2007]

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