Monday, December 7, 2020

Survey of Earned Doctorates, 2019 edition

From the NSF's Survey of Earned Doctorates, the latest data, which is for the class of graduates during the 2019 calendar year. First, the demographic data (tab 58): 

All doctorate recipients (number): 2,941
Sex (%): Male 60.9 / Female 39.1 / Unknown 0.0
Citizenship (%): U.S. citizen or permanent resident 60.6, Temporary visa holder 36.4, Unknown 3
Marital status (%): Never married 48.9, Married 32.2,  Marriage-like relationship 7.5, Separated, divorced, widowed 1.2, Unknown 10.2
Bachelor's in same field as doctorate (%): 73.2
Master's earned (%): 37.2
Age at doctorate (median years): 28.9
Time to doctorate (median years): From bachelor's 6.3, From graduate school start 5.8, From doctoral program start 5.3

Now, their destinations (tab 59): 

Definite postgraduation study: 982 (36% of respondents to this question)
Definite employment: 788 (29% of respondents to this question)
Seeking employment or study: 878 (33% of respondents to this question)
Other: 63 (3% of respondents to this question)

Definite postgraduation study (%): Postdoc fellowship or research associateship 96.9, Other or unknown 3.1
Definite employment (%): Academe 16.2, Government 4.4, Industry or business 75.8, Nonprofit organization 1.0, Other or unknown 2.5
Primary activity (%): R&D 70.4, Teaching 14.0, Management or administration 3.7, Professional services 11.2, Other 0.7

Median starting salaries for those employed (does not count postdoctoral appointments) (tab 49): 

Total: $95,000
Academe: $54,000
Industry or business: $102,158
Government: $80,000
Nonprofit organization: $81,000
Other or unknown: $50,000

Last year's data, in case you're interested. (most dramatic changes were to this year's salaries, which were all up) 


  1. The average age is what stands out to me. Typical age for graduating with a Ph.D. at the Tier 1 University I attended was 24-25 years old. And that was only 16 years ago. I cannot imagine putting my life on hold for that long looking back.

    1. Really? Finishing a PhD by age 24-25 is unusually quick by US standards, assuming you enter graduate school at age 21-22. International students will be older still, since they typically come in with a master's.

    2. I would have said the same thing as Adamantane. In the US, people tend to graduate at 21/22. If they go straight into a PhD program, even a 'short' 5-year PhD would have them graduating at 26/27.

      I graduated college at 22 and went straight into a PhD program. I finished my PhD in 5.5 years (at 27 years of age).

    3. I too am struggling to figure out how someone would 'typically' receive a PhD at 24. Most people in North America don't start graduate school until they're 22.

    4. Are you in the US? I have a December birthday and was always the youngest in my class, went to grad school in the 90's when 4 and 4 1/2 year PhD's were more common, and defended two days after my 26th birthday. Someone in the class before me finished in 3 1/2 years and defended a few days before his 25th birthday, but that was really unusual even then.

  2. Also, assuming that data is accurate, it is crazy to see that the starting salaries for fresh PhD's is higher than what I make in industry now, wow...

  3. Not sure about people's ages, but my department likes to brag we have a 4.9 yrs avg graduation time. personally I saw 2 of my colleagues got out at 6.5 yrs, 2 got out at 5 yrs, where one got a postdoc position that needs to leave, and another spent a chunk of high school and college summers with my boss. people in my year are slowly getting flushed out around 5-5.5 years along with a few older folks clocking at 6.5 years defending this month, and I'm leaving this miserable hole in just a month. I'd say the average for us would be 5.5ish years. Anyways, anon's argument is probably harsher - youd think putting life on hold til 25 is bad, but on avg people do it til 27-29.

  4. These are numbers for individuals that get a job with a PhD, and I wonder how high that fraction is compared to the total graduate PhD's. For example, what fraction of total PhD's sat employed as post-docs for many many years? What fraction left science all together?

    I think the most relevant number would be get the salary (if he/she has one) of all Chem Ph's, and divide by the total number of PhD's.

    Im guessing that number is around 60K USD a year....

    1. Meant to say that Im thinking average life time earnings (say, from graduate up to 65 yo) per year for a PhD are about 60 K USD averaged over all PhD's, with all the problems people have keeping jobs.

      For this reason, I think you probably better off with a BS and being a HS chem teacher, in terms of money.

  5. It looks as if the job market for chemists is experiencing a strong bull run.


looks like Blogger doesn't work with anonymous comments from Chrome browsers at the moment - works in Microsoft Edge, or from Chrome with a Blogger account - sorry! CJ 3/21/20