Skip to main content

Doctorates Awarded

Each year the National Science Foundation (NSF) conducts the Survey of Earned Doctorates. Each person who has earned a research doctoral degree that year is surveyed, and among the questions asked are the field in which the doctorate was earned, and the Baccalaureate institution that the recipient had attended. The doctoral-granting institution is responsible for submitting the surveys, and consequently NSF has very good data on this. These data are made available to the public through publications and online via the National Center for Science and Engineering Statistics (NCSES) and prior to that NSF's Web Caspar.

The table below presents data for a recent 10-year window. Doctorates awarded between 2008 and 2017 to graduates of each baccalaureate institution are presented as a proportion of the number of bachelor's degrees awarded in a lagged (by nine year — 1999-2008) period.

Swarthmore produced doctorates at a rate of 22.4% overall (3rd highest), and 15.3% in Sciences and Engineering (5th highest).

Earned Doctorates by Baccalaureate Institution*
Top 25 Institutions

Institution Name All Disciplines Science and Engineering  
Rate Rank Rate Rank  
California Institute of Technology 42.1% 1 40.9% 1  
Harvey Mudd College 29.8% 2 29.2% 2  
Swarthmore College 22.4% 3 15.3% 5  
Reed College 22.1% 4 16.2% 4  
Carleton College 18.6% 5 14.2% 6  
Massachusetts Institute of Technology 18.5% 6 17.5% 3  
Grinnell College 16.3% 7 11.8% 7  
Haverford College 14.6% 8 10.5% 10  
Princeton University 14.3% 9 10.6% 9  
Pomona College 14.2% 10 10.4% 11  
Harvard University 14.1% 11 9.8% 13  
Bryn Mawr College 13.6% 12 8.4% 19  
Simon's Rock College of Bard 13.0% 13 9.0% 16  
Rice University 13.0% 14 10.8% 8  
Yale University 12.9% 15 8.3% 22  
Oberlin College 12.6% 16 7.5% 28  
Amherst College 12.5% 17 8.1% 24  
Macalester College 12.2% 18 8.6% 17  
Stanford University 12.0% 19 9.2% 14  
Brown University 11.8% 20 8.3% 23  
Case Western Reserve University 11.2% 21 10.1% 12  
Wellesley College 11.0% 22 7.4% 29  
Wesleyan University 10.5% 23 6.9% 34  
Vassar College 10.5% 24 6.4% 42  
University of Rochester 10.4% 25 8.4% 20  

* See note at the bottom of this page about missed institutions.

Printable list of the top 25 institutions [pdf]

Printable list of the top 100 institutions [pdf]

A listing of the top 100 baccalaureate producers of doctorates in each of the 8 broad discipline fields during this period may be found here [pdf]. (Note, this document is 21 pages long.)

Researchers use the NSF data in various ways to reflect the "Baccalaureate Origins" of doctoral degree recipients. Sometimes raw numbers of doctorates awarded to graduates of an institution in a given year or years are presented. An example of this is "Doctorates Awarded to Graduates of Liberal Arts Colleges, FY 2017" [pdf] in Swarthmore's Fact Book. This table presents the numbers of doctorates earned in 2017 (only), by field, by graduates of Liberal Arts institutions.

Sometimes, as in the table above, the figure is presented as a rate by dividing the raw number in a given time period by the number of bachelor's degrees awarded in an appropriate lagged time period. (This is sometimes called "weighted doctorates" because the doctorates are weighted by some measure reflecting the size of the baccalaureate institution.) For the presentation above, the Swarthmore College Office of Institutional Research extracted data files from NSF using WebCaspar and the new NCSES Interactive Tool*, and merged them in order to perform necessary calculations to sum and weight doctorates overall and in the sciences. Numerous research projects and published articles have used this approach to demonstrate the strength of Liberal Arts Colleges in producing students who go on to earn doctorates. When the rate is calculated for all institutions and then ranked, the top of the list is dominated by Liberal Arts Colleges, such as Swarthmore, and not by the major research universities that one might expect. Swarthmore College often appears near the top of these ranked lists, the exact position depending on the time frame used, the weighting scheme, or the fields of study of interest. This means that Swarthmore produces a relatively high number of students who go on to earn doctoral degrees.

* Because NSF's new interactive data tool does not include the institution code (FICE), matching the data for bachelor's degrees awarded and the doctorates earned by its alumni is problematic for some institutions, with the result that several institutions are missed.  That means that while the rates presented above are accurate, the ranks may be off because those institutions are not included. 
Known to be missing: University of Chicago, St. John's College of Annapolis, St. John's College of Sante Fe. 
(Please let rshores1 know of any others. NSF has been alerted about this being a problem for researchers.)