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Science and Engineering Doctorates

Data source

The Survey of Earned Doctorates (SED) is the sole data source for Doctorate Recipients from U.S. Universities: 2015. The principal elements of the 2015 SED data collection are described in the sections that follow. More detailed information and related technical tables are available at

Survey eligibility.

The SED collects information on research doctorate recipients only. Research doctorates require the completion of a dissertation or equivalent project, are oriented toward preparing students to make original intellectual contributions in a field of study, and are not primarily intended for the practice of a profession. The 2015 SED recognized 18 distinct types of research doctorates. In 2015, 98% of research doctorate recipients earned the PhD.

Survey universe.

The population eligible for the 2015 survey consisted of all individuals who received a research doctorate from a U.S. academic institution in the 12-month period from 1 July 2014 to 30 June 2015. The total universe consisted of 55,006 persons in 432 institutions that conferred research doctorates in academic year 2015.

Data collection.

Survey instruments were mailed to institutional coordinators at each doctorate awarding institution. The institutional coordinators distributed the survey forms to individuals receiving a research doctorate, collected the forms, and returned them to the survey contractor for editing and processing. Data were also collected using Web and telephone versions of the survey. Respondents who did not complete critical survey items were contacted by mail to request response to those items. NORC at the University of Chicago conducted the 2015 SED under contract to NCSES.

Survey response rates.

In 2015, 90% of research doctorate recipients completed the survey instrument. Limited records (field of study, doctoral institution, and sex) are constructed for nonrespondents from administrative records of the university—commencement programs, graduation lists, and other public records—and are included in the reported total of doctorate recipients. Response rates for 2005–15 are provided in the technical tables.

Time series data changes.

After a multiyear review of Doctor of Education (EdD) degree programs participating in the SED, 143 programs were reclassified from research doctorate to professional doctorate over the 2010–11 period. No additional reclassifications of EdD degree programs are planned. SED data are no longer being collected from graduates earning degrees from the reclassified EdD programs, and this has affected the reporting of the number of doctorates awarded by sex, citizenship, race, and ethnicity. Several figures in this report show a decline in number of degrees awarded from 2009 to 2011 (in particular, see figures 1D and 1F in the "Who earns a U.S. doctorate?" section and figure 2B in the "Which fields attract students?" section). Readers should note that the declines from 2009 to 2010 and from 2010 to 2011 are at least partly attributable to the EdD reclassification.