Who earns a U.S. doctorate?
Each new cohort of doctorate recipients augments the supply of prospective scientists, engineers, researchers, and scholars. Data on the changing demographic composition of these cohorts reveal underutilized groups.
Doctorates awarded by U.S. colleges and universities: 1958–2012
The number of research doctorates awarded each year shows a strong upward trend over time—average annual growth of 3.4%—punctuated by periods of slow growth and even decline. The growth in the number of research doctorates awarded in 2012 (4.3%) marked the largest single-year increase since 2007.
In every year, the number of doctorates awarded in science and engineering (S&E) fields has exceeded the number of non-S&E doctorates. Since the mid-1970s, the number of S&E doctorates has nearly doubled, whereas the number of doctorates in non-S&E fields has declined slightly. In 2012, almost three-quarters of all research doctorates were awarded in S&E fields. The number of doctorates awarded in S&E fields and in non-S&E fields both increased by more than 4.0% from 2011 to 2012. This was the largest increase in non-S&E doctorates awarded in the past 20 years.
Doctorates awarded in science and engineering fields, by citizenship: 1992–2012
In 1992, 33% of all S&E doctorates were awarded to temporary visa holders. The proportion of S&E doctorate recipients holding temporary visas increased to 41% by 2007, but it has declined since then, to 36% in both 2011 and 2012.
Over the period 2002 to 2012, 84% of the doctorates earned by temporary visa holders were in S&E fields, compared with 64% of the doctorates earned by U.S. citizens and permanent residents.
Top 10 countries or economies of foreign citizenship for U.S. doctorate recipients: Total, 2002–12
Doctorate Recipients from U.S. Universities: 2012. Related detailed data: tables 25, 26.
Countries or economies of foreign citizenship
Ten countries accounted for 70% of the doctorates awarded to temporary visa holders from 2002 to 2012, and the top three-China, India, and South Korea-accounted for slightly more than half.
Sex and citizenship of U.S. doctorate recipients: 1992–2012
Women are becoming increasingly prevalent with each new cohort of doctorate recipients, earning a majority of all doctorates awarded to U.S. citizens and permanent residents each year since 2002 and earning one-third of all doctorates awarded to temporary visa holders over that period. In 2012, women earned 46% of all doctorates. The total number of doctorate recipients increased for both men and women every year from 2002 until 2009. After a decline in 2010, the number of male and female doctorate recipients increased in 2011 and again in 2012 among both temporary visa holders and U.S. citizens and permanent residents.
Sex and field of study of U.S. doctorate recipients: 1992–2012
Sex: Field of Study
Most of the growth in the number of doctorates earned by women has been in S&E fields. Women earned 42% of S&E doctorates awarded in 2012, up from 30% in 1992. Doctorates in S&E fields account entirely for the increase in doctorates earned by men overall, as the number of men earning doctorates in non-S&E fields fell over that 20-year period. The numbers of male and female doctorate recipients grew in 2012 in both S&E and non-S&E fields.
Doctorates earned by members of U.S. underrepresented minorities: 1992–2012
Race and ethnicity
Participation in doctoral education by underrepresented minority U.S. citizens and permanent residents is increasing, as evidenced by an 87% increase in the number of doctorates awarded to blacks or African Americans over the past 20 years and a more than doubling of Hispanic or Latino doctorate recipients. Owing to these growth rates, the proportion of doctorates awarded to blacks or African Americans has risen from 4.0% in 1992 to 6.3% in 2012, and the proportion awarded to Hispanics or Latinos has risen from 3.3% in 1992 to 6.5% in 2012. The number of American Indian or Alaska Native doctorate recipients fell to its lowest point of the past 20 years.