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Science Ph.D.'s Continue to Grow

Science Ph.D.'s Continue to Grow
November 20, 2006

It is unlikely to quiet the burgeoning cries of alarm about a perceived crisis in American scientific competitiveness. But a new report from the National Science Foundation offers some evidence both of progress and of continued problems.

The report finds that the number of science and engineering Ph.D.'s awarded by American universities in 2005 reached an all-time high of 27,974, surpassing the previous record of 27,273 from 1998. Also peaking in 2005 were the number of doctorates granted to women, to Asian Americans and to members of underrepresented minority groups, and the number awarded in several of the so-called "STEM" fields.

But the sharpest growth of all occurred among non-U.S. citizens, who earned 13.4 percent more doctorates from American universities in 2005 than they had the year before, and who have seen their share of all doctorates grow since 2001. In 2005, foreign-born researchers earned 41 percent of the science and engineering Ph.D.'s awarded by American universities, up from 36 percent in 2001 and 39 percent in 2004, as seen in the table below:

Science and Engineering Doctorates Awarded by U.S. Universities, 2001-5  

  2001 2002 2003 2004 2005 % of 2005 total
Total 25,496 24,582 25,274 26,272 27,974 100.00%
Male 16,166 15,369 15,757 16,415 17,405 62.2
Female 9,286 9,163 9,517 9,856 10,533 37.7
U.S. citizens 15,049 14,341 14,635 14,741 14,912 53.3
-White 12,225 11,486 11,612 11,630 11,848 66.1
-Asian 1,053 1,035 1,008 1,066 1,114 4.0
-Black/Hisp./
Amer. Indian
1,282 1,354 1,346 1,393 1,428 5.1
Non-U.S. citizens 9,213 8,861 9,480 10,154 11,516 41.2

(Note: Those whose gender, ethnicity or citizenship are unknown are excluded from subtotals.)

The report released by the National Science Foundation Friday contains summary data from the Survey of Earned Doctorates that is produced each year by six federal agencies: the NSF, the National Institutes of Health, the U.S. Department of Education, the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the National Endowment for the Humanities, and the National Aeronautics and Space Administration.

A broader report, the annual Doctorate Recipients from U.S. Universities: Summary Report 2005, was also made available this weekend.

Numerous fields saw more Ph.D.'s awarded in 2005 than in any other previous year, including engineering, the biological sciences, mathematics and computer sciences. The increase in engineering Ph.D.'s was spread across most of the major subdisciplines, with the biggest gains occurring in electrical engineering (to 1,852 from 1,650), chemical (to 875 from 725), civil (to 757 from 673) and mechanical (to 978 from 852).

The number of doctorates awarded in non-science fields actually declined in 2005, the report finds, falling to 15,380 from 15,845 in 2004. Most of that drop occurred in education, with a slight uptick in health fields, as seen in the table below: 

Doctorates Awarded by Discipline, Selected Years, 1996-2005

Field 1996 1999 2002 2005
All 42,437 41,092 39,953 43,354
Science
and engineering
27,240 25,931 24,582 27,974
Science 20,931 20,601 19,505 21,570
-Agriculture sciences 1,118 1,065 1,009 1,038
-Biological
sciences
5,724 5,581 5,690 5,939
-Computer sciences 920 856 807 948
-Earth/ocean sciences 724 723 689 713
-Mathematics 1,122 1,083 919 1,203
-Physical sciences 3,826 3,562 3,185 3,647
---Astronomy 192 159 141 186
---Chemistry 2,149 2,132 1,921 2,127
---Physics 1,485 1,271 1,123 1,334
-Psychology 3,494 3,668 3,197 3,327
-Social sciences 4,003 4,063 4,009 4,138
-Engineering 6,309 5,330 5,077 6,404
         
Non-science and engineering 15,197 15,161 15,371 15,380
-Education 6,785 6,546 6,491 6,229
-Health 1,324 1,407 1,653 1,777
-Humanities 4,711 5,035 5,029 4,947
-Professional/other 2,377 2,173 2,198 2,427

 

Although women are continuing to make up an increasing proportion of all doctoral degrees awarded, the distribution is uneven, as the table below shows:

Proportion of Ph.D's Earned by Women in Selected Fields, 1996-2005

Field 1996 2005
All Fields 40.0 45.1
Science/engineering 31.7 37.7
-Agricultural sciences 27.2 36.2
-Biological sciences 42.2 48.8
-Computer sciences 15.1 19.8
-Mathematics 20.6 27.1
-Chemistry 28.2 34.0
-Physics 13.0 15.0
-Psychology 66.7 68.0
-Social sciences 36.5 44.7
-Engineering 12.3 18.3
---Chemical engineering 17.9 24.0
---Electrical engineering 9.7 13.4
Non-science    
-Education 61.7 66.7
-Humanities 49.7 50.2

A total of 416 institutions in the United States and Puerto Rico awarded at least one of the 43,354 doctorates in 2005. But the top 10 percent of institutions awarded nearly half of all Ph.D.'s. The top 20 universities in doctorates awarded are:

 

1. U. of California at Berkeley 802
2. U. of Texas at Austin 716
3. U. of Michigan 711
4. U. of Wisconsin at Madison 664
5. U. of California at Los Angeles  651
6. U. of Minnesota 644
7. Stanford U. 642
8. U. of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign 637
9. Pennsylvania State U. 606
10. Ohio State U. 591
11. Massachusetts Inst of Technology 581
12. U. of Florida 574
13. U. of Southern California 554
14. Purdue U. 522
15. Texas A&M U. 511
16. U. of Washington 511
17. Harvard U. 510
18. U. of Maryland 499
19. Michigan State U. 475
20. Columbia U. 472

 

 

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