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A Profile of Future Faculty: Data from The National Research Council


Those individuals currently receiving Ph.D.'s will be the pool from which the faculty of the future will be drawn. What characterizes this cohort of Ph.D. recipients? This overview is based on a summary of the 1998 Survey of Earned Doctorates conducted by the National Opinion Research Center.

How Many People Are Receiving Ph.D.'s?

During 1998, 387 U.S. universities conferred 42,683 doctorates, slightly more than in 1997. The number of doctorates earned has increased for 13 consecutive years. U.S. citizens earned 27,352 of the 1998 research doctorates. U.S. citizens received 71.3 percent of all doctorates earned in 1998. China was the country of origin for the largest number of non-U.S. doctorate recipients with 2,571, followed by India with 1,259, Taiwan with 1,110, Korea with 710, and Canada with 448.

In What Fields are People Receiving Ph.D.'s?

The largest number of doctorates awarded was in the broad category of the life sciences, in which 8,540 Ph.D.'s were earned. The number of degrees conferred in other broad areas were 7,075 in social sciences; 6,739 in the physical sciences; 6,559 in education; 5,919 in engineering; 5,499 in humanities; and 2,352 in business and other professional areas. The number of doctorates granted in the fields of humanities and engineering has increased the most over the past decade (increases of 55 percent and 41 percent respectively).

What are the Racial/Ethnic and Gender Backgrounds of Recent Ph.D.'s?

Women received 17,856 doctorates, or 41.8 percent of all doctorates granted in 1998, the highest percentage ever for women. Over the past 40 years, the rate of growth for female doctorates has averaged 7.5 percent per year, compared with just under three percent annually for male doctorates. The number of men earning doctorates in 1998 declined for the second straight year. Among U.S. citizens, 47.7 percent of doctorates were earned by women. By broad field categories, the percentage of research doctorates earned by women in 1998 were 62.8 percent in education, 54.2 percent in the social sciences, 48.6 percent in the humanities, 45.4 percent in the life sciences, 41.6 percent in business/professional fields, 23.7 percent in the physical sciences, and 13 percent in engineering.

U.S. citizen racial/ethnic minority groups accounted for 14.7 percent of the doctorates earned by U.S. citizens in 1998, the largest percentage ever. Among the U.S. citizens who identified their race/ethnicity (96.9 percent), African Americans earned 1,467 doctorates, Hispanics earned 1,190 doctorates, Asian Americans (including Pacific Islanders) earned 1,168 doctorates, and American Indians (including Alaskan Natives) earned 189 doctorates.

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What Financial Supports Were Doctorate Recipients Receiving?

Three in five (60.6 percent of all doctorate recipients in 1998) reported fellowships or teaching/research assistantships from programs or institutions as their primary source of financial support for graduate education. Only half (49.1 percent) of all doctorate recipients reported educational indebtedness at the time of graduation.

How Long Does It Take to Receive a Ph.D.?

Median time to receiving the doctorate since earning the baccalaureate was 10.4 years in 1998. Median time to degree since first enrollment in any graduate program was 7.3 years. The typical Ph.D. recipient was just under 34 years of age at the time the degree was conferred.

What Were Ph.D. Recipients' Post-Graduation Commitments?

The percentage of Ph.D. recipients reporting definite post-graduation commitments for employment or study was 69.6 percent in 1998. Seventy percent of them will work and 30 percent will continue as post-doctorates. Among U.S. citizens and those holding permanent visas with firm employment plans, 50 percent say academe is their planned work sector. About one-quarter indicated industry or self-employment, 8.2 percent reported some level of government employment, while the remaining 17.4 percent indicated "other" forms of employment.

For the complete report, see Sanderson, A., B. Dugoni, T. Hoffer, and L. Selfa. Doctorate Recipients from United States Universities: Summary Report 1998. Chicago: National Opinion Research Center, 1999. The report gives the results of data collected in the Survey of Earned Doctorates, conducted for five Federal Agencies, NSF, NIH, USED, and USDA, by NORC.


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