Warning symbol Newer information is available
Bookmark and Share
Report Home

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: 1993–2013

(Percent)
SOURCE: Doctorate Recipients from U.S. Universities: 2013. Related detailed data: tables 4, 7, 12, 13.

Field trends: Science and engineering

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 2013, a substantially larger share than 10 years earlier (65%). The relative share of doctorates awarded in social sciences has declined over the past decade, the only broad S&E field to do so, even though the number of social sciences doctorates was 29% larger in 2013 than it was in 2003.

Doctorates awarded in non-science and engineering fields of study: 1993–2013

(Percent)
SOURCE: Doctorate Recipients from U.S. Universities: 2013. Related detailed data: tables 4, 8, 12, 13.

Field trends: Non-science and engineering

The number of doctorates awarded in education has declined over the past decade, leading to a large, steady drop in the relative share of doctorates in that field from 16% in 2003 to 9% in 2013. Despite an increase in the number of humanities doctorates, the relative share of doctorates awarded in this field fell 2 percentage points from 2003 to 2013. The share of doctorates in other non-S&E fields has remained fairly stable over the past decade.

Doctorates awarded, by citizenship and field of study: 1993 and 2013

(Percent)
NOTE: Percentages are based on the number of doctorate recipients for whom citizenship was reported.
SOURCE: Doctorate Recipients from U.S. Universities: 2013. Related detailed data: table 17.

Temporary visa holders

In every broad field of study except life sciences, the share of doctorates awarded to temporary visa holders is larger in 2013 than it was 20 years earlier. Temporary visa holders are most prevalent in engineering and physical sciences. In 2013, temporary visa holders represented 56% of doctorate recipients in engineering and 45% of those in the physical sciences.

Doctorates awarded to minority U.S. citizens and permanent residents, by race, ethnicity, and field of study: 2013

(Percent)
SOURCE: Doctorate Recipients from U.S. Universities: 2013. 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 or ethnic backgrounds are more heavily represented in some fields of study than in others. In 2013, 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; and Hispanics or Latinos earned more doctorates in humanities than did any other minority group. Asians and blacks or African Americans earned the largest numbers of doctorates in other non-S&E fields in 2013, and Hispanics or Latinos and blacks or African Americans earned the largest numbers of doctorates in social sciences.

Doctorates awarded to women, by field of study: 1993–2013

(Percent)
SOURCE: Doctorate Recipients from U.S. Universities: 2013. Related detailed data: tables 14, 15, 16.

Women: Field of study

Women's share of doctorates awarded has grown over the past two decades in all broad fields of study. In 2013, women earned the majority of doctorates awarded in life sciences, social sciences, education, and humanities, and they earned nearly half of the doctorates in other non-S&E fields.

Although women earn less than 30% of the doctorates awarded in both physical sciences and engineering, their numbers are increasing rapidly in those fields. From 2003 to 2013, the number of women earning doctorates in physical sciences and engineering increased 75% and 125%, respectively, exceeding the rate of increase in all other broad fields of study.

Top fields of study for female doctorate recipients, by field of study: 2003–13

(Percent change 2003–13)
SOURCE: Doctorate Recipients from U.S. Universities: 2013. Related detailed data: table 15.

Women: Growing fields

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