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Survey Shows More Americans Earning Research Doctorate Degrees



By Catherine Groux
Posted December 07, 2012 11:00 AM

More students are earning research doctorate degrees.
More students are earning research doctorate degrees.
According to a newly released survey by the National Science Foundation (NSF), 49,010 students earned research doctorate degrees from American universities in 2011, marking a 2% increase from 2010. This slight rise was consistent with the NSF's past findings, which show that since 1958, the number of research doctorates awarded has grown by an average of 3.4% per year.

A growing percentage of these doctoral students earned degrees in science and engineering, particularly life science. In 2011, about 74% of all doctorate degree seekers earned credentials in these fields, up from 66% only a decade earlier.

As more students opt to earn doctorate degrees in science and engineering, over the past 10 years, fewer individuals have gone back to school to study education and the humanities, the report shows. However, Mark K. Fiegener, a project officer at the NSF, told The Chronicle of Higher Education that these figures are skewed slightly, as many education doctorate degrees were reclassified as professional credentials rather than research doctorates. In fact, if these education degrees were not reclassified, the total number of research doctorate degrees awarded last year would have exceeded 50,000, rather than hanging around 49,000. 

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