Survey of Doctorate Recipients

The Survey of Doctorate Recipients (SDR) is sponsored by the National Science Foundation (NSF) and the National Institutes of Health (NIH). The SDR is a survey of science, engineering, and health doctorate recipients who earned their degrees from institutions within the United States. This study is the only comprehensive source of data on the careers of science, engineering, and health doctorate holders from U.S. institutions, and it provides key data on the education and training, work experience, career development, and demographics of this important population. Data collection activities for the 2003-2017 SDR were contracted to NORC.

The SDR sample is selected from the Doctorate Records File (DRF), a record of all research doctorate recipients from U.S. universities since 1920. The DRF is updated annually based on data collected by the Survey of Earned Doctorates (SED), sponsored by the NSF, the NIH, and four other federal agencies. From 1997 through 2016, data collection activities for SED were contracted to NORC. 

The SDR employs a trimodal data collection approach, collecting data using a self-administered online questionnaire, self-administered paper questionnaire (via mail), and computer assisted telephone interview (CATI). Published data products for each round of the SDR include Information Briefs and Detailed Statistical Tables. As of the 2010 cycle, the SDR provides estimates for the doctorate population residing in the U.S. and abroad.

NORC concluded data collection for the 2017 SDR cycle in January 2018. Study results may be found on the NSF website.extlink

Recent Publications

National Science Foundation. (2020). Doctorate Recipients in the Social, Behavioral, and Economic Sciences (SBE): 2017 (NSF Publication No. 20-310). Alexandria, VA: National Science Foundation.

Chang, W-Y. (2018, March). Balancing cross-sectional and longitudinal design objectives for the survey of doctorate recipient. Presented at the Federal Committee on Statistical Methodology (FCSM) Research and Policy Conference, Washington, DC.

Cohen, W. M., Sauermann, H., & Stephan, P. (2018). Academics’ motives, opportunity costs and commercial activities across fields. National Bureau of Economic Research, No. w24769.

Kniffin, K. M., & Hanks, A. S. (2018). The trade-offs of teamwork among STEM doctoral graduates. American Psychologist, 73(4), 420 – 432.

Tao, Y. (2018). Earnings of academic scientists and engineers: Intersectionality of gender and race/ethnicity effects. American Behavioral Scientist, 62(5), 625-644. extlink

Hur, H., Andalib, M.A., Maurer, J.A., Hawley, J.D., & Ghaffarzadegan, N. (2017). Recent trends in the U.S. Behavioral and Social Sciences Research(BSSR) workforce. PLoS ONE 12(2), 1-18.

National Science Foundation. (2017). 2016 doctorate recipients from U.S. universities (NSF Publication No. 18-304). Arlington, VA: National Science Foundation.

Powell, D. (2017). The price of doing a postdoc. In Science, January 10, 2017.


For questions about study participation, please email the SDR Study Staff at or call 1 (800) 685-1663.

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