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Survey of Earned Doctorates

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The Daily

Monday, April 28, 2008

The number of students graduating from Canadian universities with a doctorate has remained stable since the mid 1990s, but there are signs that this may change.

Canadian universities awarded PhDs to about 4,000 students in the 2004/2005 academic year, according to new data from the Survey of Earned Doctorates.

Over three-quarters of these graduates completed their studies in a science or engineering field; the most popular was biological sciences.

Although the number of graduates in recent years has not varied substantially, enrolment in doctoral programs has increased.

Between 2000 and 2004, enrolment grew at an average rate of almost 7% a year. In 2004/2005, more than 34,000 students were enrolled in all years of doctoral programs. This suggests there should soon be a commensurate increase in the number of earned doctorates.

The Association of Universities and Colleges of Canada attributes the growth in enrolment to two factors. The first is an increase in the number of faculty at Canadian institutions, which has increased the institutional capacity for training graduate students.

The second is an increase in the level of funding for graduate students through student financial assistance and research grants from both governments and universities.

Although PhD graduates accounted for roughly 0.4% of the population, Canada lags behind many other Organisation of Economic Co-operation and Development countries in this regard. The proportion in the United States was 0.7%.

Survey data also showed there was a more equitable distribution between the sexes among doctoral grads in 2004/2005. About 46% of graduates were women, up from 43% in the previous year.

The survey was administered to all students graduating from a doctoral program at a Canadian university. The 2004/2005 survey was the second edition.

Field of study: One-fifth enrolled in biological sciences

About one-fifth of the 2004/2005 graduates (21%) were enrolled in biological sciences. Engineering and humanities each accounted for over 10% of graduates.

As was the case in 2003/2004, about 9% graduated from both psychology and education, and 8% from social sciences.

Physical sciences, life sciences, social sciences, and engineering, which together constitute the broad category of "science and engineering," accounted for over 75% of Canadian doctoral graduates. In the United States, this category accounted for 68%.

Even though female graduates neared parity with men, there were wide gaps between the sexes within certain fields of study.

Engineering remained the most male-dominated field, while psychology became the most female-dominated. Women represented less than one-fifth of graduates in engineering, but nearly four out of every five in psychology in 2004/2005.

Some of the gains made by women came in traditionally male dominated fields. In computer and information sciences and mathematics, as well as in physical sciences, the numbers of female graduates grew much faster than the number of male graduates.

Between the 2003/2004 and the 2004/2005 academic years, the proportion of women graduating from computer and information sciences and mathematics increased from 20% to 30%.

Profile of new graduates: Nearly one-quarter planned on living outside Canada

On average, doctoral graduates were 36 years old in 2004/2005. They took an average of 5 years 9 months to complete their doctorate.

The international mobility of graduates is important because of the international nature of academic research. Nearly 23% of doctoral graduates in 2004/2005 planned to live outside of Canada on completing their degree, slightly higher than the proportion of 21% in the previous year.

Almost 6 out of every 10 (59%) students graduated without any debt related to their graduate studies. The proportion of students without any debt from either their graduate or undergraduate studies also improved from the previous year; 50% of graduates were debt-free in 2004/2005 compared with 46% in 2003/2004. About 65% of students said they received a fellowship or scholarship through their university, 63% reported receiving a teaching assistantship, and 32% reported receiving a research assistantship.

Almost three-quarters of doctoral graduates had firm plans for their future when they graduated. Graduates of social sciences and life sciences were the most likely to have established plans.

The majority of doctoral graduates found employment in research and development, or teaching. Almost 38% of graduates intended to work in research and development, while 33% planned to teach.

Participation in doctoral education has been encouraged by the availability of financial support and by strong income expectations.

Nearly two-thirds (64%) expected to earn more than $55,000, up from 60% in 2003/2004.

Furthermore, for graduates who were continuing their studies, most chose post-doctoral programs with a focus on research and development.

Canada continued to be a desired destination for foreign doctoral students. Nearly 23% of doctorate earners were foreign or visa students, and a majority of these students planned to remain in Canada. Over 42% of engineering graduates were foreign or visa students.

Definitions, data sources and methods: survey number 3126.

The report "Doctoral Graduates in Canada: Findings from the Survey of Earned Doctorates, 2004/2005" is now available as part of the Culture, Tourism and the Centre for Education Statistics: Research Papers (81-595-MIE2008065, free). From the Publications module of our website, choose Free Internet publications, then Education, training and learning.

To obtain more information on Statistics Canada's Education Statistics Program, to order data, or to enquire about the concepts, methods or data quality of this release, contact Client Services (toll-free 1-800-307-3382; 613-951-7608; fax: 613-951-4441; TTY: 1-800-363-7629;, Culture, Tourism and the Centre for Education Statistics.