The National Science Foundation.

Science and Engineering Doctorates: 2011

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Which fields attract students?

As researchers expand their understanding of the world, new fields of study emerge and existing fields change. Observing which fields of study are attracting growing proportions of students can provide early insight into where future research breakthroughs may occur.

 

Doctorates awarded in science and engineering fields of study: 1991–2011

(Percent)
Doctorate Recipients from U.S. Universities: 2011. Related detailed data: tables 4, 7, 12, 15.

Field trends: S&E

Doctorates in science and engineering (S&E) fields, particularly in life sciences, represent a growing share of all doctorates awarded. Overall, S&E doctorates accounted for 74% of all doctorates awarded in 2011, up from 66% 10 years earlier. The relative share of doctorates awarded in social sciences has declined slightly over the past decade, even though the number of social sciences doctorates was larger in 2011 than it was in 2001.

Doctorates awarded in non-science and engineering fields of study: 1991–2011

(Percent)
Doctorate Recipients from U.S. Universities: 2011. Related detailed data: tables 4, 8, 12, 15.

Field trends: Non-S&E

The number of doctorates awarded in education and humanities has declined over the past decade, leading to a decline in the relative share of doctorates in those fields. The relative share of doctorates in other non-S&E fields increased slightly from 2001 to 2011.

Doctorates awarded, by citizenship and field of study: 1991 and 2011

(Percent)
Doctorate Recipients from U.S. Universities: 2011. Related detailed data: table 18.

Temporary visa holders

In all broad fields of study, the share of doctorates awarded to temporary visa holders is larger today than it was 20 years ago. In 2011, temporary visa holders represented the majority of doctorate recipients in engineering and over 40% of those in the physical sciences.

Doctorates awarded to minority U.S. citizens and permanent residents, by race/ethnicity and field of study: 2011

(Percent)
Doctorate Recipients from U.S. Universities: 2011. Related detailed data: tables 23, 24.

Minority U.S. citizens and permanent residents

Among minority U.S. citizens and permanent residents, doctorate recipients of different racial/ethnic backgrounds tend to be concentrated in different fields of study. In 2011, Asians were the largest U.S. minority population in life sciences, physical sciences, and engineering; blacks or African Americans were the largest U.S. minority population in education; Hispanics or Latinos earned more doctorates in humanities and social sciences than any other minority group. Asians and blacks or African Americans earned similar numbers of doctorates in other non-S&E fields in 2011.

Doctorates awarded to women, by field of study: 1991–2011

(Percent)
Doctorate Recipients from U.S. Universities: 2011. Related detailed data: tables 13, 14, 17.

Women: Field of study

Women's share of doctorates awarded has grown over the past two decades in all broad fields of study. In 2011, women earned the majority of doctorates awarded in every broad field except physical sciences and engineering.

Although women earn less than 30% of the doctorates awarded in both physical sciences and engineering, their numbers are increasing rapidly in those fields. The number of women earning doctorates in physical sciences increased 70% from 2001 to 2011, and the number of female engineering doctorate recipients almost doubled over the decade.

Top fields of study for female doctorate recipients, by broad field and select subfield: 2001–11

(Percent change 2001–11)
Doctorate Recipients from U.S. Universities: 2011. Related detailed data: table 17.

Women: Growing fields

The fastest growing subfields of doctoral study for women over the past 10 years have been within the physical sciences (led by computer and information sciences) and engineering.

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