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Report details time to doctorate

April 3, 2006 | A version of this story appeared in Volume 84, Issue 14

Over the past 25 years, the total time from baccalaureate to earning a Ph.D. in the physical sciences has risen by almost a year to 7.9 years, according to an NSF report. "Time to Degree of U.S. Research Doctorate Recipients" pulls data from 1978 to 2003 from the agency's Survey of Earned Doctorates. Among physical science fields, chemistry has the shortest time to degree, with students taking an average of 6.9 years, followed by physics and astronomy, where the average time is 7.6 years, and mathematics, with an average time of 7.9 years. The report also notes that 66% of those earning a Ph.D. in all fields in 2003 received primary support from program- or institution-based sources, such as teaching assistantships, research assistantships, and fellowships. Of that group, those with teaching assistantships had the longest average time to degrees. The data also show that earning a master's degree lengthened the time to Ph.D. In chemistry, for instance, the average time to earn a degree for those who didn't receive a master's degree was six years, while those who did earn a master's took an average of 8.5 years.


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