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2020 AERA-Spencer COVID-19 Impact Survey

Chicago, IL / USA - May 24,2020: A young man in cap and gown walks under a sign downtown at the Chicago Theater, saying "Congrats Class of 2020."
Examining how the pandemic influenced the experiences of early-career doctorates and doctoral students
  • Client
    American Educational Research Association; Spencer Foundation
  • Dates
    2020 - 2023


COVID-19 presented challenges for early-career doctorates and doctoral students in education research.  

The American Educational Research Association (AERA) and the Spencer Foundation wanted to better understand how the COVID-19 pandemic affected people who were just launching their careers after earning doctorates and those who were completing their doctoral programs at the onset of the pandemic.


NORC surveyed doctoral students and graduates to guide the policies of schools and other stakeholders. 

AERA and the Spencer Foundation engaged NORC at the University of Chicago to survey early-career doctorates and doctoral students about the impact of COVID-19 on their lives and careers. The study is intended to provide essential information to higher education institutions, research funders, professional associations, and research organizations seeking to support research career development during and after this public health crisis. 

Survey questions touched on what support strategies were most effective during the pandemic, as well as how COVID-19: 

  • shaped research topics and priorities
  • presented unique personal and professional challenges
  • affected participants’ career expectations

We invited approximately 17,000 current and former AERA members from the 2018, 2019, and 2020 membership to participate in the online survey. The study population included early-career doctorates (2013 - 2020) and doctoral students across the United States.


A report will identify which support strategies worked for doctoral students and graduates. 

NORC and AERA are preparing a summary report of the results, expected to be released in 2022. The report will shed light on the experiences of students and graduates during the pandemic and how well schools and other institutions supported them.

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