Results from the NSF Survey of Earned Doctorates

The number of social and personality psychology graduates has held steady over the past five years. Post-graduation plans include academic jobs, post-docs, non-academic employment/other plans, and those still seeking work or study. Results highlight the need to help students prepare for a range of post-graduation opportunities. We can also better support females and graduates from diverse backgrounds pursuing academic research careers.

Graph of PhD Postgrad Plans


  • Between 2011 and 2015 there were 1246 graduates in personality and social psychology.
  • The number of graduates from 2011-2015 averaged 249 per year (range: 226 to 263).
  • Females outnumber males by almost 2-to-1, 807 to 439.
  • US Citizens and permanent residents made up 88% of graduates with visa holders making up 12%.
  • Within US citizens and permanent resident holders, doctorates in social and personality psychology by race/ethnicity were as follows:
    • 75.8% White   
    • 8.2% Asian     
    • 7.3% Hispanic or Latino
    • 4.8% Black or African American
    • 2.5% More than one race
    • 1.2% Other race or race/ethnicity not reported
    • 0.1% American Indian or Alaska Native
    • For comparison, for psychology (non-clinical, non-general) graduate students the national percentages are 61.9% White; 4.6% Asian; 14.3% Hispanic or Latino; 9.5% Black or African American; 2.8% More than one race; 5.9% Unknown. (NSF Survey of Graduate Students and Postdocs in Science and Engineering, 2015).
  • The median age of social and personality psychology PhD graduates is 30.3.

Sex Differences

Post-PhD Plans by Sex graph

  • Females and males report an equal likelihood of going directly into academic jobs (around 25%). But two differences are noteworthy:

    • Males are more likely to be employed in academic jobs where research is a primary activity (45%) compared to academic jobs taken by females (37%).

    • The rate for males going into post-docs is higher than for females (26% vs. 22%) while the percentage of females going into nonprofits and “other plans” is higher than for males (3% vs. 2% and 4% vs. 1%). 

Race/Ethnicity Differences

PhD Plans by Ethnicity chart

  • Whites are over-represented in academic jobs (83% of jobs, 76% of graduates).

  • Asians/Asian Americans are under-represented in academic jobs (5% of jobs, 8% of graduates) and non-academic jobs  (8% vs. 12%) but are more likely to take a post-doc position (30% vs. 24%).

  • Blacks/African Americans have a high rate of definite employment, for both academic jobs (30% vs. 25% for total) and non-academic jobs (15% vs. 11.6% total) but a lower rate for going into post-docs (15% vs. 24% total).

  • Both Asian/Asian Americans and Black/African Americans have higher rates of seeking employment or post-doc  (33% and 32% vs. 28% for total).

  • Hispanic or Latino graduates have a lower than average likelihood of going directly into an academic job (16% vs. 25% total) but have a high rate for post-doc study (30% vs. 24%).

Survey Notes

  • Time administered: In 2015, the median difference between graduation year/month and survey completion year/month was -1 (survey completed the month before graduation) and 80% of the completed surveys were completed within +/- 3 months of graduation year/month.
  • “Industry or business” includes for-profit organizations and indications of self-employment.
  • “Other plans” include those who did not plan to work or study but had some other type of postgraduation plan, including those who had definite plans for a full-time degree program.
  • “Other employment” is mainly composed of those with plans to teach in elementary or secondary schools.
  • Where data is missing for a racial/ethnic group it is due to insufficient data. 

“The Survey of Earned Doctorates (SED) is an annual census conducted since 1957 of all individuals receiving a research doctorate from an accredited U.S. institution in a given academic year. The SED is sponsored by six federal agencies: the National Science Foundation, the National Institutes of Health, the U.S. Department of Education, the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the National Endowment for the Humanities, and the National Aeronautics and Space Administration. The SED collects information on the doctoral recipient’s educational history, demographic characteristics, and postgraduation plans. Results are used to assess characteristics of the doctoral population and trends in doctoral education and degrees.”