Earning a Doctorate Degree means earning the highest degree available in one’s field. For applied professional doctorates, these usually are degrees such as the Juris Doctor (JD), the Doctor of Medicine (MD), and the Doctor of Education (EdD). The PhD is the highest degree available for those who conduct research or teach in university systems. Doctorates can be earned, however, in almost any area of study.

What is the Survey of Earned Doctorates?

The Survey of Earned Doctorates or SED is a census conducted annually since 1957. Each academic year, the survey collects information regarding all individuals who have earned a research doctorate from an accredited U.S. institution.

The Survey of Earned Doctorates is sponsored by the National Center for Science and Engineering Statistics (NCSES) along with three other federal agencies: the National Institutes of Health, the Department of Education, and the National Endowment for the Humanities.

The information collected by the Survey of Earned Doctorates includes postgraduation plans, demographic characteristics, and educational history. The results of the Survey of Earned Doctorates are used to evaluate trends in doctoral degrees and education along with the characteristics of the population of those receiving doctorates.

The Survey of Earned Doctorates is a voluntary survey and directly affects Graduate Centers’ access to federal funding and grants by establishing statistical data. Information collected from the survey is aggregated and kept completely confidential.

Eligibility for the Survey

The Survey of Earned Doctorates targets all those who are awarded research doctorates in the United States and Puerto Rico between July 1 and June 30. These doctorates must have been awarded by an accredited college or university.

Eligibility for inclusion of institutions into the Survey is determined by a procedure known as the “SED universe review.” The review helps to identify institutions that may require removal for a number of reasons. Reasons for removing an institute could include the dissolution of an institution’s doctoral research program or the merging of the school with another institution. When an institution has been identified as eligible for inclusion a series of steps are taken to include new universities in the Survey of Earned Doctorates.

Items Surveyed:

According to the National Center for Education Statistics

, the Survey of Earned Doctorates collects information in the following categories: all postsecondary degrees received and the years that the degrees were awarded; years spent as a student in graduate school; specialty field of a doctorate; type of financial support received in graduate school; level of debt incurred in undergraduate and graduate school; employment/study status in the year following doctoral award; postgraduation plans (how definite, study vs. employment, type of employer, location, and basic annual salary); high school location and year of graduation; demographic characteristics (sex, race/ethnicity, date and place of birth, citizenship status, country of citizenship for non-U.S. citizens, marital status, number of dependents, disability status); and personal identifiers (such as name, last 4 digits of Social Security Number, and permanent address).

Collection of Data

The collection and editing of the data is an 18-month process that is collaborative between the survey contractor, doctorate recipients, and educational institutions. The survey contractor is informed by institutions of new doctorate recipients. Institutions also send questionnaires on behalf of the contractor, providing mailing and email addresses for all graduates who failed to return the surveys. The surveys are usually distributed by the institutions with other final paperwork. Follow-up phone calls, as well as accelerated mail cycles, follow up the survey distribution to encourage response and return of the survey.

How is the Data Used?

The data collected from the Survey of Earned Doctorates is used by academic institutions, the government, and other industries to assess and target issues that might surround policy, education, and human resources. Trends in doctorate production are primarily evaluated by the survey as well as the characteristics of those who receive doctorates. The educational progress of minorities and women, particularly in science and engineering, are monitored as well as the number of foreign citizens earning doctorates in the United States.

Other areas assessed by the survey include the trends in the time to complete a doctorate in different fields as well as the type of support received. Data assessed by the longitudinal Survey of Doctorate Recipients also provides information for the labor market for those receiving their doctorate.

Particularly useful information gathered from the Survey of Earned Doctorates is which institutions are being attended by doctorate receivers. Results are often compared by peer institutions that grant doctorates as well as undergraduate institutions. The evaluation gives institutions the knowledge of what they contribute to the production of doctorates. Carnegie Classifications are also applied to the results of the survey, granting researchers the ability to examine the roles of Historically Black Colleges and Universities role in the educational achievements of African Americans.