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The annual Survey of Earned Doctorates (SED)—which gathers data from research doctorate recipients when they complete their degree at a U.S. university—highlights three notable trends in the job status of new humanities Ph.D.’s since 1990: 1) a declining proportion of humanities Ph.D.’s are completing their studies with a job in hand; 2) a growing share are taking postdoctoral study positions; and 3) the share of new Ph.D.’s with jobs in academia has declined in recent years.

The following indicators look at the numbers through two lenses. While most indicators examine the entire cohort of new Ph.D.’s and their destinations, Indicator III-20c looks only at those new doctorate recipients with a definite U.S. job commitment, examining how they are distributed among employment sectors (academia, government, etc.).

(Note: These indicators present data for Ph.D.’s in both the humanities and the arts, which the National Science Foundation’s National Center for Science and Engineering Statistics combine in its public reporting of findings from the SED. But because the humanities produces substantially more Ph.D.’s each year than the fine/performing arts, the SED provides useful insight about the state of doctoral education in the humanities.)

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* Reported percentages were calculated on those Ph.D. completers responding to the pertinent survey items (rates of response were not 100%). Counted as having a postdoctoral study commitment are those respondents who reported plans for a postdoctoral fellowship or research associateship, a traineeship, internship or clinical residency, or other study, and excludes respondents who indicated plans for a full-time degree program. Postdoctoral study is not restricted to positions at colleges and universities but also includes training positions in industry, government, and not-for-profit organizations.

Source: National Science Foundation, National Center for Science and Engineering Statistics, Doctorate Recipients from U.S. Universities (Data Tables, Years 1990–2020), Tables 42 and 44, https://www.nsf.gov/statistics/doctorates/ (accessed 4/21/2022). Data analyzed and presented by the American Academy of Arts and Sciences’ Humanities Indicators (www.humanitiesindicators.org).

The data on which this indicator is based are collected as part of the federal Survey of Earned Doctorates, a national census of recently graduated doctorate recipients.

III-20b: Employment Sector of Doctorate Recipients with a Definite Postgraduation U.S. Employment Commitment, Selected Academic Fields, 1996–2020*

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* Reported percentages were calculated on those Ph.D. completers responding to the pertinent survey items (rates of response were not 100%). Counted as having a postdoctoral study commitment are those respondents who reported plans for a postdoctoral fellowship or research associateship, a traineeship, internship or clinical residency, or other study, and excludes respondents who indicated plans for a full-time degree program. Postdoctoral study is not restricted to positions at colleges and universities but also includes training positions in industry, government, and not-for-profit organizations.

Source: National Science Foundation, National Center for Science and Engineering Statistics, Doctorate Recipients from U.S. Universities (Data Tables, Years 1990–2020), Tables 42 and 44, https://www.nsf.gov/statistics/doctorates/ (accessed 4/21/2022). Data analyzed and presented by the American Academy of Arts and Sciences’ Humanities Indicators (www.humanitiesindicators.org).

The data on which this indicator is based are collected as part of the federal Survey of Earned Doctorates, a national census of recently graduated doctorate recipients.

III-20c: Employment Sector of Ph.D.’s with a Definite U.S. Job Commitment at Graduation, by Field of Degree, 1990–2020*

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* Reported percentages were calculated on those Ph.D. completers responding to the pertinent survey items (rates of response were not 100%).
** “Other” mainly comprises the primary and secondary education sector.

Source: National Science Foundation, National Center for Science and Engineering Statistics, Doctorate Recipients from U.S. Universities: 2020 (Data Tables; Years 1990 2005, and 2020), Table 46, https://ncses.nsf.gov/pubs/nsf22300/data-tables (accessed 4/21/2022). Data presented by the American Academy of Arts and Sciences’ Humanities Indicators (www.humanitiesindicators.org).

The data on which this indicator is based are collected as part of the federal Survey of Earned Doctorates, a national census of recently graduated doctorate recipients.

III-20d: Share of Ph.D.’s with a Definite Commitment for Employment or Postdoctoral Study at Time of Graduation, by Type of Commitment and Field/Discipline, 2010–2020*

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* Reported percentages were calculated on those Ph.D. completers responding to the pertinent survey items (rates of response were not 100%). Counted as having a postdoctoral study commitment are those respondents who reported plans for a postdoctoral fellowship or research associateship, a traineeship, internship or clinical residency, or other study, and excludes respondents who indicated plans for a full-time degree program. Postdoctoral study is not restricted to positions at colleges and universities but also includes training positions in industry, government, and not-for-profit organizations.

Source: National Science Foundation, National Center for Science and Engineering Statistics, Doctorate Recipients from U.S. Universities (Data Tables; Years 1990–2020), Table 67 (for years 2010–2014) and 69 (for years 2015–2020), https://www.nsf.gov/statistics/doctorates/ (accessed 4/21/2022). Data presented by the American Academy of Arts and Sciences’ Humanities Indicators (www.humanitiesindicators.org).

The data on which this indicator is based are collected as part of the federal Survey of Earned Doctorates, a national census of recently graduated doctorate recipients.

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