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As Anthropology Doctorates Increase in Number & Diversity, So Do Financial & Social Support Needs

The AAA receives daily requests from researchers, administrators, faculty, and students for information such as:

  •  Number of degrees granted in a given year
  • Average length of time to complete a degree in anthropology
  • Degrees granted by gender and/or minority status
  • Post-graduation employment rates

To address these inquiries we often rely on our membership database, AnthroGuide, and findings from special purpose surveys. In addition, in January 2014, the NSF released tables and an interactive report on findings from the 2012 Survey of Earned Doctorates (SED). First conducted in 1957-1958, the 2012 SED reports on “all individuals who received a research doctorate from a U.S. academic institution in the 12-month period from 1 July 2011 to 30 June 2012,” producing annual statistics on graduate demographics, time to degree, funding source, field of study, and post-graduate commitments. For the most recent iteration, the total eligible population was 51,008 graduates with a doctorate degree. The survey had a response rate of 92% of doctorate recipients.

In this first of two reports, we highlight key findings in the composition of graduates in anthropology and the social sciences. The Graduates 2012 Report: As Anthropology Doctorates Increase in Number and Diversity, So Do Financial and Social Support Needs for Graduates summarizes growth patterns among PhDs, and changes in anthropology’s graduate student body composition, based on data from the NSF SED and contextualized with recent reports on the costs and benefits of graduate-level education. The NSF SED data indicate that post-secondary education enrollments continue to rise as graduate-level degrees become requisite for an increasing range of careers. While a greater portion of college-aged students are attending graduate school, they are enrolling disproportionately in career-oriented fields. More students from racialized minority groups are pursuing doctorate degrees, albeit with less social and financial resources at hand than their white counterparts. And the costs versus gains in pursuing a graduate degree may be differentially calculated among members of racial and ethnic categories. The findings reported in the SED, combined with growing reports of PhD debt suggest that the demographic profile of students and role of higher education are evolving.

The second, forthcoming report will discuss post-graduation employment trends.

As we continue to strengthen our institutional research capacity, we will be updating, re-organizing, and building on the reports and data sources currently available on our Resources for Researchers webpages. By constructing an easily-navigated, comprehensive repository for assessing trends in education, academic programs, membership, and employment, we hope to help our members and other interested parties obtain the information and statistics necessary to monitor trends, lobby for resources, and address changing needs in our field. We look forward to any feedback or additional inquiries you would like to contribute to this effort.

For more information on the Graduates 2012 Report, please contact Courtney Dowdall (cdowdall@aaanet.org)

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