Section 2 The data

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This report provides an opportunity to examine the outcomes of graduates more thoroughly by drawing from two different data sources that survey similar populations, but at two different points in time. The first is the Survey of Earned Doctorates (SED), which has provided annual data on doctoral graduates at the point of graduation since the 2003/2004 academic year. The second source is the National Graduates Survey (NGS), which interviews a representative sample of graduates from Canadian post-secondary education institutions two years after their graduation. The survey has been administered at four- or five-year intervals since 1982. Thus, doctoral graduates in 2005 were interviewed at the time of graduation by SED and again in 2007 by the NGS. Due to the relatively small number of doctoral graduates, both surveys are a census of doctoral graduates in Canada.1 

Since SED is collected based on the academic year (from the beginning of July to the end of June of the following year) and the NGS data are collected for the calendar year, two waves of SED were merged to capture all graduates from the 2005 calendar year. These two classes have been described previously—2004/2005 graduates in King (2008) and 2005/2006 graduates in King, Eisl-Culkin and Desjardins (2008). The class of 2005 from the NGS has been described in Bayard and Greenlee (2009).

Non-response to the two surveys (approximately 46% for SED and 33% for the NGS) resulted in a total sample of approximately 2,500 graduates who responded to both surveys. These respondents were then weighted to represent the graduating class of 2005. In instances where the linked file did not add value to the analysis, statistics were computed with either the full SED or NGS sample in order to preserve sample size. It should be noted that SED is representative of all graduates from Canadian institutions, while the NGS and the NGS-SED linked files are representative only of graduates who remained in Canada or the United States after completion of their degrees. However, this difference did not lead to sizeable differences in key indicators between the samples (see Box 1).

Box 1
Target population of the National Graduates Survey

The target population for the 2005 NGS consisted of all graduates from a recognized public post-secondary Canadian institution who completed the requirements of an admissible program or obtained a diploma some time in 2005 and who were living in Canada or the United States at the time of the survey (with the exception of American citizens living in the United States at the time of the survey).

In-scope records are records that met all criteria in the target population as defined above. Of the 4,200 doctoral graduates in Canada in 2005, about 3,500 were considered to be in-scope graduates in 20072.

Overall, there were no differences in the distribution of women between the two populations; 44% of graduates in 2005 were women compared to 46% in 2007. Similarly, the distribution of graduates by different fields of study was comparable, except in the social and behavioural sciences, and law where the share of graduates increased by three percentage points, from 18% to 21%.

Note: Comparisons between 2005 and 2007 were made by comparing the NGS data to data from the Postsecondary Student Information System (PSIS).

End of box

2.1 Linking the SED and the NGS

Both the SED and the NGS each have their strengths and limitations for examining doctoral graduates. For instance, since SED is conducted at the time of graduation, it contains limited information regarding employment outcomes. In fact, employment data in SED relies on the graduates' own expectations for their future employment, if they had already made plans for employment or further education. On the other hand, because SED is collected at the time of graduation, it surveys all graduates regardless of where they will be living upon completion. This is in contrast to the NGS, which, for practical purposes, includes only graduates who are living in Canada or the United States at the time of the interview. Both surveys include only recipients of a doctorate degree from Canadian institutions and not doctorate holders who immigrated to Canada. According to the 2006 Census, graduates from Canadian institutions accounted for just over half (54%) of all doctorate degree holders in Canada.

Linking the two data sources provides a unique and valuable source of data on this population beyond what is generally known from these two sources alone. The linked file creates a longitudinal data file covering doctoral graduates who graduated in 2005 and who lived in Canada or the United States in 2007. Graduates' expectations and plans at the time of graduation can be verified with data collected two years following their first interview. Furthermore, the accuracy of their expectations can be assessed, giving us a picture of the outcomes of their degrees as well as an insight into the reliability of graduates' expectations as captured by SED. Additionally, information that was collected in SED may be used to add explanatory power to the outcomes found in the NGS.

For simplicity and occasionally to meet conditions of confidentiality, the fields of study have been collapsed in order to provide larger samples. The fields were collapsed as follows:

Table 1
Comparison of detailed field of study and Classification of Instructional Programs (CIP) to collapsed list
Collapsed list Detailed field of study list Classification of Instructional Programs (CIP) series and subseries
Life sciences Agricultural sciences Agriculture, natural resources and conservation
Biological sciences Biological and biomedical sciences, natural sciences
Health sciences All health sciences – including nutrition sciences and neurosciences
Engineering Engineering Engineering
Computer, mathematics and physical sciences Computer and information sciences and mathematics Mathematics, computer and information sciences
Physical sciences – including astronomy and astrophysics, atmospheric sciences and meteorology, chemistry, geological and earth sciences / geosciences, physics Physical sciences – including astronomy and astrophysics, atmospheric sciences and meteorology, chemistry, geological and earth sciences / geosciences, physics
Psychology and social sciences Psychology Psychology
Social sciences Social sciences
Behavioural sciences
Humanities History History
Letters, languages and literature Letters, languages, literatures and linguistics
Other humanities Liberal arts, general studies and humanities
Philosophy and religious studies
Education and other fields of study Education Education
Professional fields / other fields Business, management and public administration
Communication, journalism and related and library science
Parks, recreation, leisure and fitness
Other multidisciplinary studies
Note: Not all Classification of Instructional Programs (CIP) series and subseries are represented at the doctoral level.


  1. Note that the NGS excludes graduates who are no longer living in Canada or the United States in 2007.
  2. Out-of-scope doctoral graduates shared characteristics similar to those of 2005-2006 graduates who were planning to leave Canada upon graduation. Proportionally more out-of-scope doctorates were men, from the computer, mathematics and physical sciences and non-Canadian than was the case for the in-scope graduates. See: King, Darren, Judy Eisl-Culkin and Louise Desjardins. 2008. Doctorate Education in Canada : Findings from the Survey of Earned Doctorates, 2005-2006. Statistics Canada Catalogue no. 51-595MIE2008069. Ottawa, 75 p.
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