The PhD Phactory

Where do science and engineering (S&E) Ph.D.’s come from? That’s a question that the National Science Foundation has been asking for a long time and the answers may surprise you. Last month, the NSF published its most recent answer online in a free-to-the-public report, Baccalaureate Origins of U.S.-trained S&E Doctorate Recipients

The report summarizes the data in several interesting ways, but the most interesting table might be Table 4, Top 50 Institutions [ordered by] institutional-yield ratio. The data shown here answer the question, Starting with 100 bachelors degree recipients, how many go on to earn an S&E PhD?

  1. Caltech 34.9%
  2. Harvey Mudd 24.4%
  3. MIT 16.0%
  4. Reed College 14.2%

Yup, that’s right. Reed, which has no engineering program and which asks every incoming student to spend a year contemplating Homeric epics, is the #4 PhD factory in the entire country.

Which leads to another question: just how many Reed students even earn degrees in science? That answer (and many other interesting tidbits about Reed) can be found here in Facts About Reed. 413 Reedies (26.2%) have received science degrees in the past 5 years out of 1579 total. Combining* the two figures suggests that about 54% of our science grads earn PhDs. Take that, Caltech! ;-)

*disclaimer: I obtained 54% by comparing NSF and Reed data from different time periods, but the Reed percentages have been very consistent for decades


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