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For new Ph.D. recipients, postgraduation employment numbers are on the rise

Last year saw an uptick in the percentage of U.S. doctorate recipients who had firm employment plans postgraduation. That’s one of many takeaways from the latest batch of data—released this week—collected as part of the U.S. National Science Foundation’s annual Survey of Earned Doctorates (SED).

During the 2016-2017 academic year, 41,438 scientists and engineers were granted doctoral degrees from accredited U.S. academic institutions. That amounted to 76% of the total number of doctorates awarded across all fields—a share that has generally been increasing over the years.

Women received most of the Ph.D.s awarded in the life sciences (55%) and in psychology and the social sciences (59%). As in previous survey years, women continued to be a minority of Ph.D. recipients in the physical sciences and earth sciences (33%), in mathematics and the computer sciences (25%), and in engineering (25%). But at the same time, some of those male-dominated fields saw sizeable increases in the share of female Ph.D. recipients over the past 2 decades. For instance, the proportion of women graduating from engineering programs is nearly double what it was during the 1997-1998 academic year.

More than two-thirds of Ph.D. recipients knew what their job would be following graduation, roughly half of whom were headed to postdoc positions. Those postgraduation employment numbers were higher for the 2016-2017 academic year than they were the previous year—a finding that could be good news for soon-to-be Ph.D. recipients if that trend continues in the years ahead.

Postgraduation employment trends

The proportion of Ph.D. recipients with definite employment plans postgraduation increased for all science and engineering fields in the 2016-2017 academic year.

(GRAPHIC) K. Langin/Science; (DATA) Survey of Earned Doctorates, U.S. National Science Foundation

The SED—now 60 years old—captures a host of other data on Ph.D. recipients, from their race to their educational background to their citizenship status. To find out more, check out summaries of the newly-released data here.

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