Survey OverviewBullet 1 Key Survey InformationBullet 2 Survey DesignBullet 3 Data Collection and Processing Bullet 4 Survey Quality MeasuresBullet 5 Data Availability and ComparabilityBullet 6 Data ProductsBullet 7 Contact Information

1. Survey Overview (2015 survey cycle; pilot study) Top of Page.

  1. Purpose: The Early Career Doctorates Survey (ECDS) is designed to provide national statistics to better understand the labor market and research and employment opportunities for early career doctorates. The survey is sponsored by the National Center for Science and Engineering Statistics within the National Science Foundation and by the National Institutes of Health.
  2. Data collection authority: The information is solicited under the authority of the National Science Foundation Act of 1950, as amended, and the America COMPETES Reauthorization Act of 2010. The Office of Management and Budget control number for the ECDS is 3145-0235, with an expiration date of 30 June 2017.
  3. Major changes to recent survey cycle: Not applicable; first cycle.

2. Key Survey Information Top of Page.

  1. Frequency: One-time pilot study. The frequency of full-scale data collection has not yet been established.
  2. Initial survey year: 2015.
  3. Reference period: Academic year 2014–2015.
  4. Response unit: Individuals working at U.S. master's- and doctorate-granting academic institutions, federally funded research and development centers (FFRDCs), and the National Institutes of Health Intramural Research Program (NIH IRP).
  5. Sample or census: Sample.
  6. Population size: Approximately 228,700. Note: Estimating the size of the U.S. early career doctorates population is a key goal of the ECDS. The 228,700 reported is based on the results of the ECDS pilot study.
  7. Sample size: 176 institutions and 6,827 individuals.
  8. Key variables:

3. Survey Design Top of Page.

  1. Target population: All individuals who earned their first doctoral degree (PhD, MD, or equivalent) within the past 10 years who are working in a U.S. academic institution, an FFRDC, or the NIH IRP.
  2. Sample frame: For the ECDS pilot study, the total frame included all individuals who earned a first doctoral degree between 2004 and 2014 and worked at a U.S. academic institution, an FFRDC, or the NIH IRP.
  3. Sample design: A two-stage sample design. The first stage was a stratified sample of institutions. The primary stratification was based on three sectors (U.S. academic institutions, FFRDCs, and the NIH IRP). The U.S. academic institutions were selected based on probability proportionate to size (PPS), with further stratification by the Carnegie classification and the existence of a medical school within the institution. PPS was estimated by a composite measure that was based on the number of postdocs, doctorate-holding nonfaculty researchers, and faculty at each institution. Of the 572 institutions in the 2013 Survey of Graduate Students and Postdoctorates in Science and Engineering, 135 were sampled. All 40 of the 2014 FFRDCs and all of the NIH IRP were sampled with certainty.

    In the second stage, a sample of early career doctorates was selected from each of the responding first-stage selections. An average of 44 early career doctorates were selected from each of the academic institutions and FFRDCs. Proportional allocation was used within the FFRDC stratum to limit the burden on small FFRDCs and to keep the selection probabilities within the FFRDCs approximately equal. A total of 250 individuals were sampled from the NIH IRP.

4. Data Collection and ProcessingTop of Page.

  1. Data collection: The first stage of data collection included outreach to assist institutions in developing lists of early career doctorates who earned their first doctoral degree in 2004 or later. These files typically included the names of early career doctorates, as well as other attributes of interest (e.g., contact information, year of doctoral degree, field of degree, citizenship, and job type). When institutions could not provide the names of their early career doctorates because of reasons such as institutional policy, alternative approaches were available to enable the institutions to participate in the survey. For example, institutions could provide a de-identified list of early career doctorates, so NCSES could select a sample. Institutions could then choose an opt-in or opt-out approach to see if sample members wanted to participate in the survey.

    The second stage of data collection focused on obtaining responses from early career doctorates using two modes of data collection: Web survey and computer-assisted telephone interviewing (CATI). More than 99% of respondents completed the questionnaire via the Web survey. The strategy to increase response included first sending an introductory message about the survey from a high authority figure at their institution and then sending an email that contained a link to the Web survey with unique login credentials embedded. Follow-up with nonrespondents included e-mails, mailing hard copies of the survey invitation, telephone prompting, and CATI.
  2. Data processing: Editing and imputation were applied. A combination of logical and hot-deck imputation techniques were used for key items with missing data.
  3. Estimation techniques: Weights were calculated to account for differential sampling rates, adjustments were made for unknown location or unknown eligibility and for nonresponse, and alignment of estimates were made with post-stratification control totals.

5. Survey Quality Measures Top of Page.

  1. Sampling error: Estimates of sampling errors for the survey are documented in the methodology report.
  2. Coverage error: At the institution level, the ECDS coverage extends to the following:
    • All institutions in the Survey of Graduate Students and Postdoctorates in Science and Engineering universe, which is a census of U.S. academic institutions granting master's or doctorate degrees in science, engineering, or health
    • All FFRDCs, which is based on a Master Government List maintained by NCSES
    • The NIH IRP
    At the individual level, there can be undercoverage if an institution omits some early career doctorates who were working at a particular center. Similarly, there can be individual-level overcoverage if an institution's list includes ineligible individuals (i.e., those who do not have a doctoral degree or whose degree was awarded more than 10 years ago). Throughout the first-stage data collection process, list coordinators received extensive guidance to help minimize or avoid these types of errors. Institutions that lack systematic records of their workers' highest degree and the year of the degree may account for both undercoverage and overcoverage. As a result, these institutions received still further attention and instructions on developing a list that included both potential and known early career doctorates based on the institution's job titles, job titles used at similar institutions, and qualifications in job announcements.
  3. Nonresponse error: The institution response rate was 84.7%, and the individual-level response rate was 66.3%.
  4. Measurement error: Cognitive testing of the survey instrument informed decisions to help minimize measurement errors from ambiguous questions and from a multimode survey approach.

6. Data Availability and Comparability Top of Page.

  1. Data availability and comparability: The survey cycle for the pilot study concluded in spring 2015. The first full-scale cycle is scheduled for 2017.

7. Data Products Top of Page.

  1. Publications: NCSES releases the data from this survey through InfoBriefs and Data Tables in the National Center for Science and Engineering Statistics publication series Early Career Doctorates available at
  2. Electronic access: Results from this survey are available on the NCSES website.
  3. Publications: For researchers interested in analyzing microdata, access to restricted data can be arranged through a licensing agreement (

8. Contact Information Top of Page.

For additional information about this survey, contact the Project Officer:

Kelly S. Phou
Project Officer, Early Career Doctorates Project
Human Resources Statistics Program
National Center for Science and Engineering Statistics
National Science Foundation
4201 Wilson Boulevard, Suite 965
Arlington, VA 22230

Phone: (703) 292-4722