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The Survey of Earned Doctorates (SED) is focused on research doctorates. Typically, a degree is included as a research doctorate if the degree requires the completion of a dissertation or equivalent project of original work (e.g. musical composition) and is not primarily intended as a degree for the practice of a profession. The PhD is the most common research doctorate degree. Recipients of professional or practitioner/applied doctorates – including the MD, DDS, JD, PsyD, DMin, PharmD and DPH degrees – are NOT included in the SED. However, in some institutions, there are some doctoral degree programs that may be equivalent to the PhD, such as the Doctor of Science, Doctor of Engineering, and the Doctor of Education; these should be included in the SED ONLY if the National Science Foundation has determined that these particular degrees at your institution are research degrees.
An institutional review is conducted annually to determine if there are any new research doctorate-granting institutions eligible to participate in the SED. If your institution or program offers a research doctorate that is not currently included in the SED, please contact us at or 1-877-256-8167, and NSF will review your program for inclusion in the SED.
A high response rate, achieved through institutional and individual cooperation, is critical to the maintenance of the statistical integrity of this database. Therefore, it is important that every individual complete an SED survey. Academic departments, research doctorate-granting institutions, national associations, public officials and agencies, and scholars rely on these data to help understand the doctoral education process and to shape institutional and national public policy as they pertain to research funding, financial support for doctoral study, and the nation’s labor force needs.
Over the life of the SED, the survey has consistently attained response rates exceeding 90% from doctorate recipients. While the study is voluntary, we have found that most graduates find the reasons for completing the survey compelling.
The SED relies on the research doctorate-granting institutions to provide us with lists of doctorate recipients. The information can be provided to us by the institutions without violating the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA). FERPA generally protects a student’s privacy interests in ‘educational records.’ FERPA provides that ‘educational records’ or personally identifiable information from such records may be disclosed, without consent, to organizations conducting studies for, or on behalf of, educational agencies or institutions for the purpose of developing, validating or administering predictive tests, administering student aid programs and improving instruction.
These data are solicited under the authority of the National Science Foundation (NSF) Act of 1950, as amended. All information is protected under the NSF Act and the Privacy Act of 1974, and issued only for research or statistical purposes. Per the Federal Cybersecurity Enhancement Act of 2015, your data are protected from cybersecurity risks through screening of the systems that transmit your data. Any information publicly released (such as statistical summaries) must be in a form that does not personally identify the respondents. As the data collection contractors, NORC and RTI International take the strongest measures to safeguard respondent confidentiality. All project staff members sign binding confidentiality pledges, and data processing facilities and computer systems are carefully designed and continuously tested to safeguard the information provided by institutions and respondents.
There is no public-use data set for the SED. Select variables are available through public data tools such as WebCASPAR, and the SED Tabulation Engine. Annual data tables are posted each December. The lastest data tables are available here and an archive of previous year's data tables can be found here. Custom tabulations can be purchased. See Standard and Custom Data Products for details.
If you are the graduate dean at a participating SED institution, you can request the microdata for your institution’s doctorate recipients using the Institution Order Forms. Other researchers interested in SED microdata must apply for a restricted use dataset through NSF. Further information is available here.