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International mobility among U.S. doctorate recipients

NSF Award:

Survey of Doctorate Recipients  (National Opinion Research Center)

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Twenty percent of foreign citizens who recently earned a doctoral degree in science, engineering or health (SEH) from a U.S. institution returned to their country of origin after graduation. Among foreign graduates who did not return to their home country, nearly 90 percent remained in the U.S.

The proportion of research doctorates in SEH awarded by U.S. institutions to foreign nationals grew to nearly 40 percent by 2010. Results from the new international component of the Survey of Doctorate Recipients (SDR) show the choice of international destinations and distinct employment characteristics of recent graduates by their citizenship status and place of residence. 

In the past, the SDR collected information only from doctorate recipients who lived in the U.S.  With the addition of the international component, the SDR can now provide information about the career outcomes of all doctoral graduates regardless of where they live. 

For instance, among foreign graduates who did not return to their country of origin, the U.S. was by far the most popular destination, followed by the European Union, Asia and Canada.  Moreover, country of origin helped to predict the likelihood of staying in the U.S. Over 90 percent of graduates from China remained in the U.S. after graduation, as did 88 percent of graduates from India and 84 percent from the former Soviet Union.

In addition, while employment characteristics are closely related to degree fields, they may vary by the location of employment. Most doctorate recipients worked in academia after graduation, regardless of citizenship status or place of residence. Foreign citizens in the U.S. were the one exception: They reported working in private, for-profit industry and in academia in equally high proportions.

The SDR is the only data source that allows for this type of detailed analysis of this important component of the science and technology workforce.

Images (1 of )

  • science and engineering doctoral statistics now track international components
  • graph shows employment patterns of recent doctorate recipients in 2008
Nearly 40 percent of students earning an S&E doctorate in the U.S. are foreign nationals.
Employment patterns for doctorate recipients in 2008.

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