If you are using a screen reader, we encourage you to call our help desk and complete the survey over the phone. Your participation in the SDR will help the National Science Foundation measure progress accurately. Please contact us at 1-855-460-5324 from within the U.S. or 301-637-8195 from outside the U.S.
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2021 Survey of Doctorate Recipients

2021 Survey of Doctorate Recipients

The Survey of Doctorate Recipients (SDR) is sponsored by the National Center for Science and Engineering Statistics (NCSES) within the National Science Foundation, and the National Institutes of Health (NIH). The SDR represents doctorate-degree holders who are working, retired, seeking work, or in some other situation. This study provides the only data on the education and training, work experience, and career development of the doctorate population. Your participation is greatly appreciated.

About the SDR

Your participation allows NCSES to use the SDR data to prepare two Congressionally mandated reports: Women, Minorities, and Persons with Disabilities in Science and Engineering and Science & Engineering Indicators. More generally, your response to the SDR allows government agencies and academia to use these data for planning decisions regarding education. It is also used by employers to understand and predict employment, industry, and salary trends.

  • Distribution of internationally residing U.S.-trained SEH doctorate holders.

    As found during the 2017 Survey of Doctorate Recipients, more than 60% of U.S. residing employed SEH doctorate holders perform R&D as primary or secondary work activity.

    The 2017 SDR estimated that about 135,700 of approximately 1.1 million US-trained science, engineering, and health (SEH) doctorate recipients were residing abroad. They are found in many countries around the world, with the largest numbers in Asia (China and India in particular), North America (Canada) and Europe.

    SOURCE: National Science Foundation, National Center for Science and Engineering Statistics, Survey of Doctorate Recipients: 2017.

  • Percent of U.S.-residing employed SEH doctorate holders reporting R&D as their primary or secondary work activity, by field of degree.

    Overview: the plot shows the fractions of SEH doctorate holders performing R&D as the primary or secondary work activity, among those residing and working in the US.

    Over 60% of U.S.residing employed SEH doctorate holders performed R&D as their primary or secondary work activity in 2019. This rate holds across most broad and fine fields, with engineers having some of the highest fractions, over 70%, and psychologists having some of the lowest fractions, below 40%.

    SOURCE: National Science Foundation, National Center for Science and Engineering Statistics, Survey of Doctorate Recipients: 2019.

  • Taxonomy of Science, Engineering and Health Doctoral Degree Fields

    Overview: the graph shows the 77 fine fields that constitute the Science, Engineering and Health doctoral degree fields and how they are arranged within 8 broad fields.

    Doctorate degrees with Science, Engineering and Health (SEH) are broken down into 8 broad fields and further divided into more specialized fields, for a total of 77 fine fields. This dynamic graph shows how the different SEH fields are classified for reporting.

    SOURCE: National Science Foundation, National Center for Science and Engineering Statistics, Survey of Doctorate Recipients: 2017.

FAQs

1
The SDR is an ongoing survey of doctorate recipients who received their degrees from U.S. academic institutions and are living and working around the world. The survey has been conducted regularly since 1973.
2
The SDR is designed to provide demographic and career history information about science, engineering, and health doctorate holders. Government agencies and academic researchers use data and reports from the SDR to make planning decisions regarding science and engineering research, training, and employment opportunities. Employers also use the SDR to understand trends in employment sectors, industry types, and salary. Students who want to learn about the relationship between graduate education and careers often obtain valuable information from the SDR.

This survey is the only comprehensive source of data on the careers of science, engineering, and health doctorate holders from U.S. academic institutions. It serves as an essential and irreplaceable resource on the training, work experience, and career development of a highly educated population.
3
The SDR is sponsored by the National Center for Science and Engineering Statistics (NCSES) within the National Science Foundation (NSF) and the National Institutes of Health (NIH). The NSF and NIH are agencies of the United States government that fund research and development. The missions of the NSF and NIH are to promote the progress of science; to advance the national health, prosperity, and welfare; and to secure national defense. Through grants and contracts, NSF and NIH sponsor scientific research, develop programs designed to strengthen scientific potential, support educational programs, and appraise the impact of research upon industrial development and innovation.

The NSF has contracted with Westat, an employee owned research firm, to collect data for the SDR. You can learn more about Westat at: https://www.westat.com/.
4
This survey is completed by individuals who have received a doctorate in science, engineering, or health from a U.S. academic institution. This includes those who received a doctorate in the biological, agricultural, and environmental life sciences, computer and information sciences, mathematics and statistics, the physical sciences, psychology, the social sciences, engineering, and health.
5
About 126,000 out of 1.2 million (approximately 10.0%) science, engineering and health doctorate holders have been asked to participate in the 2021 SDR.
6
Your name came from the Doctorate Records File (DRF). The DRF is a database that contains the name and degree information for all individuals who earned a research doctorate in the United States. You were scientifically and randomly selected from this database to be part of the SDR.
7
It is important to the National Science Foundation (NSF) to reach all sampled doctorate holders selected for the SDR. To reach everyone, Westat uses a variety of sources to obtain contact information, including information you provided when filling out either the Survey of Earned Doctorates or a previous cycle of the SDR as well as publicly available sources online.
8
The SDR tracks career interests and employment trends for a very important portion of the population: science, engineering, and health doctorate holders. Since we cannot interview the entire population of doctorate holders, we scientifically selected a sample from it, including you, to be part of the survey. Your responses represent not just you, but also many other highly educated individuals like you; if you do not share your career and work history with the SDR, you and those that you represent will not be accounted for. Your participation helps to ensure that SDR information is valid and complete.
9
Yes! Click here for a pdf copy of the 2021 SDR questionnaire.
10
The SDR is the only national, comprehensive source of data on the careers of science, engineering, and health doctoral degree holders educated in the U.S. Completing the survey is an easy way to contribute to your educational community and to the public interest.

  • Data from the SDR help government, business, academic, and industrial leaders to forecast labor demand and supply in many fields--your participation increases the accuracy of these data.
  • Educational institutions use data from the SDR to establish and modify scientific or technical curricula--your participation helps these institutions make better decisions.
  • Many U.S. government agencies use data from the SDR to get an overall sense of scientific, engineering, and health resources, and then formulate STEM policies in view of these resources--your participation increases the accuracy of the data on which these policy decisions are made.
  • Private industry uses SDR data to understand employment and salary trends and to develop recruitment strategies and benefits packages that are effective--your participation helps industry leaders better understand the scientific and technical workplace.
  • College students use information from the SDR to help make decisions about graduate study and about careers--your participation makes the data more useful to these students.
11
The National Science Foundation (NSF) produces a variety of publications; some are congressionally mandated. NSF publications can be found on the National Center for Science and Engineering Statistics (NCSES) website, http://www.nsf.gov/statistics.

SDR Data in Action includes an extensive list of publications that use SDR data.
12
You may complete the 2021 SDR in one of three ways:

  1. online via a secure connection to the Internet,
  2. on a paper version of the survey, or
  3. by telephone with a professional interviewer.
Please contact the survey contractor, Westat, toll-free within the U.S. at 1-855-460-5324, outside the U.S. at 301-637-8195, or send an email to SDR@westat.com. Let us know your preference, and we will be happy to accommodate you.
13
The survey includes people in a variety of employment situations. Learning that you've retired--whether you've retired but have since returned to work part time or full time, or whether you've stopped working entirely--is important information that makes SDR trend data more complete and more useful. The National Science Foundation (NSF) is especially interested in how the career paths of retirees may change over time and in the current economy--an economy in which some retirees need to return to work, perhaps in fields that are very different from the fields of their doctoral degrees, and in which some workers may retire either earlier or later than planned. The only way to track such career changes and trends is to include all respondents in the survey, even those retired individuals who intend to stay retired. Your participation can help to ensure that our information genuinely represents a complex and changing workforce.
14
The SDR includes people working in a variety of industries and fields. Some people still work in their doctorate degree field and others do not. People work outside of their field of study for a variety of reasons and the National Science Foundation (NSF) is interested in understanding the career pathways of all individuals who earned a doctorate degree whether they are still working in field or not. Your participation will help ensure that the career pathways of all doctorate degree-holders are represented.
15
Scientists and engineers with doctoral degrees are highly trained and mobile. Many move from one country to another to take advantage of opportunities in their fields. Understanding the employment opportunities and career paths of science, engineering, and health doctorate holders is important no matter where they live or work.
16
Absolutely! Anyone who earned a science, engineering, or health research doctorate degree from a U.S. academic institution is eligible for the SDR regardless of where they currently live or work.
17
This survey is conducted over a period of several months. In order to standardize data collection procedures, the National Science Foundation (NSF) selected the week of February 1 as a reference to assure that everyone who participates will be asked about the same time period. It has no other special significance.
18
The SDR sample was randomly selected from the Doctorate Record File (DRF), a database containing the name and degree information of all individuals who earned research doctoral degrees from U.S. academic institutions. Sample members serve as representatives of the entire U.S.-trained doctoral population in the fields of science, engineering and health.

Upon completing your doctoral degree, you were asked to complete a Survey of Earned Doctorates (SED) questionnaire and this information was added to the DRF. From among those listed in the DRF up through academic year 2019, you were randomly selected to participate in the Survey of Doctorate Recipients. The most recent doctorate recipients listed in the DRF are added to the overall SDR sample every 2 years when the survey is conducted in order to fully represent the current U.S.-educated doctorate population.
19
Because the SDR is a panel survey--a study of a group of individuals over a number of years--it is critical for the SDR to interview the same individuals over time. Examining results over time allows researchers and policy makers to more clearly understand the decisions made by science, engineering, and health doctorate holders over time.
20
Even when no changes come to mind initially, there may be minor changes in your situation that contribute to a more comprehensive understanding of your situation. We have often found that re-asking these questions uncovers these subtle changes. The SDR seeks to develop aggregate trend data. Whether all or some of your responses stay the same, change a little or a lot, your participation over time allows analysts and policy makers to better understand the circumstances of the most highly trained individuals in our population.
21
Yes. The SDR includes people in every employment situation. Tracking whether you've retired and returned to work, or whether you remain retired, is essential information that makes SDR trend data more complete and useful. The only way to track such career decisions is to include all respondents in the survey, even retired individuals who plan to stay retired.

Your responses will give SDR researchers crucial information about the retirement activities and labor force status of doctorate holders, which can aid analysts and policy makers in the decisions that shape the recruitment, training, and employment policies of doctorate recipients.
22
Yes! Westat operates a secure computer facility dedicated to confidentiality and data protection of this and other federal studies. Your data will be encrypted and transmitted to and from Westat web servers through the use of Transport Layer Security (TLS) technology. This proven security protocol is widely used to support e-commerce transactions, server account authentication, and data encryption.
23
Definitely. The National Science Foundation (NSF) and Westat maintain the highest standards of confidentiality. Your name and other identifying information, as well as that of all other participants, will be kept strictly confidential by the NSF and Westat as required by the National Science Foundation Act of 1950 as amended, and the Confidential Information Protection and Statistical Efficiency Act of 2002.

No information obtained in the course of this survey may be disclosed in a manner in which the individual supplying the information is identifiable, except to a very small number of authorized staff at NSF and Westat, and then only for survey administrative purposes, not for dissemination. Any violation of your confidentiality is subject to penalties of up to five years in prison and/or as much as a $250,000 fine.
24
All information captured in the SDR is treated as confidential, protected under the Privacy Act of 1974 and the Confidential Information Protection and Statistical Efficiency Act (CIPSEA) of 2002. Both statutes mandate that SDR data must be exclusively used for statistical purposes. Under CIPSEA, data may not be released to unauthorized persons. Willful and knowing disclosure of protected data to unauthorized persons is a felony punishable by up to five years imprisonment and up to a $250,000 fine.

Per the Federal Cybersecurity Enhancement Act of 2015, your data are protected from cybersecurity risks through screening of the Federal systems that transmit your data.

Participation in the SDR is also entirely voluntary, and there are no penalties for failing to answer any particular question(s). A respondent's answers are never reported individually, but instead are grouped with answers from other persons in the survey to create statistical and analytical reports. In short, at no point does the SDR identify individual respondents and NSF never publishes individual responses.

For more information, see Privacy Information.
25
Within the NSF is the National Center for Science and Engineering Statistics (NCSES), a federal statistical agency. As mandated by the America COMPETES Reauthorization Act of 2010, the mission of NCSES is to serve as a central Federal clearinghouse for the collection, interpretation, analysis, and dissemination of objective data on science, engineering, technology, and research and development. To accomplish this mission, NCSES is tasked to collect, acquire, analyze, report, and disseminate statistical data related to the science and engineering enterprise in the United States and other nations that is relevant and useful to practitioners, researchers, policymakers, and the public, including statistical data on--

  1. research and development trands;
  2. the science and engineering workforce;
  3. United States competitiveness in science, engineering, technology, and research and development; and
  4. the condition and progress of United States STEM education.
Prior to the America COMPETES Reauthorization Act of 2010, information for the SDR was collected under authority provided to NSF in the National Science Foundation Act of 1950. That Act states, "The National Science Foundation is authorized to provide a central clearinghouse for the collection, interpretation, and analysis of data on scientific and engineering resources and to provide a source of information for policy formulation by other agencies of the Federal government."
26
Certainly. As an alternative, you may complete the 2021 SDR either in a paper version or by telephone with a professional interviewer.

Please contact the survey contractor, Westat, toll-free within the U.S. at 1-855-460-5324, outside the U.S. at 301-637-8195, or send an email to SDR@westat.com. Let us know your preference, and we will be happy to accommodate you.
27
Certainly. As an alternative, you may complete the 2021 SDR either in a paper version or by telephone with a professional interviewer.

Please contact the survey contractor, Westat, toll-free within the U.S. at 1-855-460-5324, outside the U.S. at 301-637-8195, or send an email to SDR@westat.com. Let us know your preference, and we will be happy to accommodate you.
28
The National Science Foundation (NSF) publishes SDR results and data in two notable report series: Science and Engineering Indicators 2020 and Women, Minorities, and Persons with Disabilities in Science and Engineering 2021. Beyond these reports, the NSF also publishes special topic reports relating to the doctoral workforce. These publications are available on-line at:

https://www.nsf.gov/statistics/srvydoctoratework.
29
For additional information about the Survey of Doctorate Recipients, please visit the National Science Foundation (NSF) web site:
https://www.nsf.gov/statistics/srvydoctoratework

For additional information about Westat please visit the Westat website:
https://www.westat.com/
30
If you have further questions about the SDR, or if you would like information about the survey data, please contact the NSF SDR Project Officer, Daniel Foley, via email at dfoley@nsf.gov.
31
Westat is committed to rigorous ethical guidelines in all interactions with survey participants. As a result, Westat follows a series of principles that are stipulated in the Code of Federal Regulations, and has set up an Institutional Review Board (commonly referred to as an IRB) to oversee all concerns about human subjects in its research projects. This IRB is required to make decisions without regard to any financial concerns that Westat may face.

If you have any questions about your rights as an SDR participant, call Westat’s Human Subjects Protections office at 1-888-920-7631. Please leave a message with your first name, the name of the research study that you are calling about (Survey of Doctorate Recipients), and a phone number beginning with the area code. A Westat IRB representative will return your call as soon as possible.
32
The primary objective of the National Do Not Call Registry is to stop telemarketing or sales calls. The National Science Foundation (NSF) is required by law to provide a central clearinghouse for the collection, interpretation, and analysis of data on scientific and engineering resources. Conducting the SDR and asking you to participate in the survey is one of the ways that NSF fulfills this lawful mandate. Westat is managing the survey on behalf of the NSF, and you have been scientifically selected to represent many doctoral degree holders similar to you--this is why you have been contacted and we hope that you will choose to participate in this important survey.
33
In 2019, the SDR updated the sample design to allow for improved estimation. As a result, individuals representing the U.S.-trained SEH doctorate population under age 76 including some who earned their degree many years ago have been invited to participate in the survey.
34
All federal government data collections are required to be reviewed by the U.S. Office of Management and Budget (OMB). The OMB number for the 2021 SDR is 3145-0020, Expiration Date 07/31/2024. You may also contact the NSF SDR Project Officer, Daniel Foley, at dfoley@nsf.gov.
35
The SDR sponsor, the National Center for Science and Engineering Statistics (NCSES) within the National Science Foundation, has contracted with Westat to conduct data collection. If you have any further questions about the survey, please contact Westat:


Alternately, you may reach Westat SDR project staff via U.S. mail at the following address:

Survey of Doctorate Recipients
Westat
1600 Research Boulevard, RC B16
Rockville, MD 20850
36
NCSES is committed to ensuring digital accessibility for people with disabilities and is continually improving the user experience for everyone. The Survey of Doctorate Recipients website is partially conformant with WCAG 2.0 level AA, which means some content may not fully conform to the accessibility standard. If you encounter any accessibility barriers while using this site, please contact us at 1-855-460-5324 from within the U.S. or 301-637-8195 from outside the U.S.

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Contact Us

  • If you have a question about the survey, contact Westat:

    Wendy Hicks, Project Director
    Survey of Doctorate Recipients

    1-855-460-5324 (toll-free within the U.S.)
    301-637-8195 (outside the U.S.)
  • To speak directly with someone at NCSES, contact:

    Daniel Foley, Project Officer
    Human Resources Statistics Program
    National Center for Science and Engineering Statistics
    National Science Foundation

  • To comment on the time you spent on the survey, contact:

    National Science Foundation

    National Science Foundation
    2415 Eisenhower Avenue
    Alexandria, VA 22314
    Attn:  NSF Reports Clearance Officer.
  • You can also comment by writing to:

    Office of Management and Budget

    Paperwork Reduction Project
    (OMB Number 3145-0020, Expiration date 07/31/2024)
    Washington, DC 20503

NCSES is committed to ensuring digital accessibility for people with disabilities and is continually improving the user experience for everyone. The Survey of Doctorate Recipients website is partially conformant with WCAG 2.0 level AA, which means some content may not fully conform to the accessibility standard. If you encounter any accessibility barriers while using this site, please contact us at 1-855-460-5324 from within the U.S. or 301-637-8195 from outside the U.S.