67 Doctorate Degree Statistics and Facts

Man sitting at desk working in office

Doctorate holder statistics have always been a topic of interest for academics, policymakers, and the general public. As the pinnacle of academic achievement, a doctorate degree represents years of rigorous study, research, and dedication. In this comprehensive guide, we will delve deep into the world of doctorate degrees, exploring its history, types, benefits, and the emerging trend of online versus traditional doctoral programs.

About 2% of the U.S. Population Holds a PhD

About 2% of the U.S. Population Holds a PhD

Data from the World Population Review highlights that about 2% of the U.S. population holds a PhD., revealing a slight gender disparity, with men at 2.5% compared to 2% of women. (source)

What a Doctorate Degree Entails

The doctorate degree, often referred to as a PhD (Doctor of Philosophy), has its roots in medieval Europe. Initially, it was a title given to individuals who had achieved the highest level of study in fields like theology, law, and medicine. Over the centuries, the scope of the doctorate expanded, encompassing a wide range of disciplines and becoming synonymous with advanced research and expertise.

Types of Doctorate Degrees

While the Ph.D. remains the most recognized type of doctorate, there are several other types, each tailored to specific fields and purposes:

  • Professional Doctorates (e.g., EdD, PsyD, DBA): These are designed for professionals aiming to apply research to practical problems in their fields.
  • Research Doctorates (e.g., PhD, D.Sc.): Focused on original research, culminating in a dissertation or thesis.
  • Higher Doctorates: Awarded in some countries for exceptional contributions to a particular field, often after the primary doctorate.
  • Honorary Doctorates: Conferred as a mark of esteem, without the recipient having completed the usual academic requirements.
Benefits of Obtaining a Doctorate Degree

Holding a doctorate degree comes with a plethora of benefits:

  • Expertise: Achieving a deep understanding and mastery of a specific subject.
  • Career Opportunities: Enhanced job prospects, especially in academia, research, and specialized professions.
  • Higher Earning Potential: Doctorate holders often command higher salaries compared to their counterparts with lower degrees.
  • Contribution to Knowledge: The opportunity to contribute to the body of knowledge in a particular field.
  • Personal Growth: The rigorous process of obtaining a doctorate hones critical thinking, perseverance, and problem-solving skills.
Teacher standing in front of whiteboard

Number and Rate of Doctoral Degree Holders

  1. Doctorate degree holders are more likely to be employed than those with a master’s degree or less. (source)
  2. 1.39% more doctorate or professional degrees were conferred in 2020 compared to 2019. (source)
  3. The number of doctorate degrees awarded is projected to increase to over 800,000 by 2030. (source)
  4. 190,178, or 4.6% of all graduates earned doctorates or professional degrees. (source)
  5. 43.6% of graduates earning doctorate degrees major in healthcare; 18.8% major in law and legal studies while 6.9% major in education. (source)
  6. The median age of doctorate recipients in 2020 was 35 years old. (source)
  7. The most common type of doctorate awarded in 2020 was the Doctor of Philosophy (PhD). (source)
  8. In 2021, doctoral students needed, on average, 7.3 years after starting graduate school to complete their doctorate. (source)
  9. On average, they needed 8.7 years since their Bachelor’s degree to complete their doctoral studies. (source)
  10. 16% of PhD earners said neither of their parents had more than a high school diploma. (source)
  11.  70.5% reported that at least one of their parents had earned a bachelor’s degree or higher. (source)

By Sex or Gender:

  1. 104,953 women earned doctorates or professional degrees, which is equivalent to 55.2% of all doctorates & professional degrees conferred. (source)
  2. In the academic year of 2019/20, about 85,230 male and 104,950 female students earned a doctoral degree in the United States. (source)
  3. By the academic year of 2030/31, these figures are expected to increase to about 88,000 and 133,000 respectively. (source)
  4. From 2000-01 to 2020-21, there has been a 93.1% increase in female students earning doctorate degrees. (source)
  5. From 2000-01 to 2020-21, there has been a 34% increase in male students earning doctorate degrees. (source)
  6. Females earned the majority of degrees in four of the five fields of study in which the most doctor’s degrees were conferred:
    1. education (70 percent);
    2. health professions and related programs (61 percent);
    3. legal profession and studies (53 percent); and
    4. biological and biomedical sciences (53 percent). (source)
  7. Of the five fields of study in which the most doctor’s degrees were conferred, males earned the majority of doctor’s degrees in engineering (74 percent). (source)

*Note: There are few statistics that include nonbinary genders in official sources. In most cases, the terms “sex” and “gender” are used interchangeably.

By Race or Ethnicity:

  1. In 2021, White students accounted for 63.36% of doctorate degrees conferred to U.S. citizens. (source)
  2. Asian and Pacific Islander students accounted for 13% of doctorate degrees conferred to U.S. citizens. (source)
  3. Black students accounted for 10% of doctorate degrees conferred to U.S. citizens. (source)
  4. Hispanic students accounted for 9.65% of doctorate degrees conferred to U.S. citizens. (source)
  5. Students of two or more races accounted for 3.38% of doctorate degrees conferred to U.S. citizens. (source)
  6. American Indian and Alaska Native students accounted for 0.41% of doctorate degrees conferred to U.S. citizens. (source)
  7. 46% of doctor’s degrees in a STEM field were conferred to U.S. non-resident students. (source)
  8. Non-resident students accounted for 12.10% of total doctorate degrees conferred in 2021. (source)
  9. In 2020, the three top countries of origin for visa holders earning a U.S. doctorate were China, India, and South Korea. (source)
Doctorate Degree Statistics conferred by postsecondary institutions in 2020–21, some 15 percent were in a STEM field.

Fields of Study

  1. The top 4 fields of research for doctoral degrees account for more than two-thirds of the total doctoral degrees awarded in 2020-2021, which are listed below:
    1. Health professions and related programs: 85,581 degrees
    2. Legal professions and studies: 35,976 degrees
    3. Education: 13,655 degrees
    4. Engineering: 10,890 degrees (source)
  2. In 2020, 80,310, or 43.6% of doctorate and professional program graduates, hold degrees in healthcare; 34,540, or 18.8%, hold degrees in legal studies. (source)
  3. Over 70% of doctorate and professional degree holders work in professional or related occupations. (source)
  4. Among the 194,100 doctor’s degrees conferred by postsecondary institutions in 2020–21, some 15 percent (28,800 degrees) were in a STEM field. (source)

Earnings and Employment

  1. Doctorate degree holders earn an average of $100,000 more per year than those with a master’s degree or less. (source)
  2. Median lifetime earnings is $4 million for those with doctorate degrees. (source)
    1. The figure is $4.3 million for men with a doctorate. (source)
    2. The figure is $3.6 million for women with a doctorate. (source)
  3. People with a doctorate have a median usual weekly earning of $2,080. (source)
  4. People with a professional degree have a median usual weekly earning of $2,080. (source)
  5. People with a doctorate make 25% more in median usual weekly earnings than people with a master’s degree. (source)
  6. The unemployment rate of people with a doctoral degree is 1%. (source)
  7. The unemployment rate of people with a professional degree is just 1.4%. (source)
  8. Doctorate degree holders are more likely to be employed in management, professional, and related occupations. (source)
  9. Doctorate degree holders are more likely to be self-employed than those with a master’s degree or less. (source
  10. The median annual salary for doctorate recipients in 2020 by field of study was:
    1. Engineering: $136,000
    2. Business: $127,000
    3. Computer and information sciences: $125,000
    4. Health professions and related sciences: $122,000
    5. Biological and biomedical sciences: $118,000
    6. Physical sciences: $115,000
    7. Education: $108,000
    8. Mathematics and statistics: $107,000
    9. Social sciences: $104,000 (source)
Woman in kitchen ready to leave for the day

Online vs. Traditional Doctoral Degrees

The digital age has ushered in a new era of learning, with online doctoral programs becoming increasingly popular. But how do they stack up against traditional, on-campus programs?

Online Doctoral Degree Statistics:
  1. In 2021, 11.2 million college students (60%) took at least one class online. (source)
  2. In 2020, there were 422 online colleges, which represent 11% of all postsecondary institutions. These colleges enrolled 2.8 million students (15% of all college students) in 2020. (source)
  3. In 2019, research found that 39.8% of graduate students were enrolled in online learning. (source)
  4. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, those with a doctoral degree earn a median difference of $575 more per week than those with just a bachelor’s degree. Doctorate holders boast some of the lowest unemployment rates. (source)
  5. Online doctoral degrees often offer accelerated programs for students, and tuition costs for online programs are often lower than those for in-person programs. (source)
  6. According to BestColleges.com, 68% of current online students held full-time or part-time employment, and 95% had children under 18 living in their household. (source)
  7. The same source reports that 90% of college students rate their online education experience as equivalent or better than their on-campus course experiences. The report also indicates that around 70% of students deem their online programs worth the time and financial investment. (source)
Factors to Consider
  • Flexibility: Online programs often offer more flexibility, allowing students to balance work, family, and studies.
  • Cost: Online degrees can be more cost-effective, eliminating expenses like commuting, housing, and campus fees.
  • Networking: Traditional programs often provide more opportunities for networking, with face-to-face interactions with peers and faculty.
  • Accreditation: Ensure that the online program is accredited by a recognized body, ensuring its quality and acceptance in the job market.
  • Learning Style: Some individuals thrive in an online environment, while others prefer the structure and interaction of a traditional classroom.
Graduate putting on cap and gown


The landscape of doctoral education has evolved significantly over the years. Whether one opts for a traditional or online program, the essence remains the same: a commitment to advancing knowledge and achieving the highest level of academic excellence. As the doctorate holder statistics continue to grow, it’s evident that the pursuit of this esteemed degree remains a coveted goal for many.


  1. https://www.bls.gov/oes/current/oes_nat.htm 
  2. https://cew.georgetown.edu/cew-reports/collegepayoff2021/
  3. https://educationdata.org/number-of-college-graduates
  4. https://educationdata.org/education-attainment-statistics 
  5. https://www.statista.com/statistics/240170/years-needed-to-complete-a-doctorate-in-the-us/
  6. https://www.statista.com/statistics/185310/number-of-doctoral-degrees-by-ethnicity/
  7. https://www.statista.com/statistics/185353/number-of-doctoral-degrees-by-field-of-research/ 
  8. https://www.statista.com/statistics/185167/number-of-doctoral-degrees-by-gender-since-1950/ 
  9. https://ncses.nsf.gov/pubs/nsf22300/data-tables 
  10. https://ncses.nsf.gov/surveys/earned-doctorates/2021#survey-info 
  11. https://www.bestcolleges.com/research/online-learning-statistics/
  12. https://www.accreditedschoolsonline.org/online-degrees/phd/
  13. https://www.oedb.org/rankings/online-phd-programs/

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