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Female Scientists and Engineers Fuel US Doctorate Degree Boost

According to National Science Foundation statistics generated by the agency's annual Survey of Earned Doctorates, US institutions awarded 49,562 research doctorates in 2009, which represents the highest number ever reported by the study and a 1.6 percent increase over the 2008 total. This overall growth is attributed to, in large part, to the number of science and engineering doctorates awarded last year — 33,470, which represents 67.5 percent of all those awarded and a 1.9 percent over the 2008 figure, "owing entirely to growth in numbers of female S&E doctorate recipients," according to an NSF InfoBrief. According to the 2009 data, "the number of doctorates earned by US citizens and permanent residents who are members of racial/ethnic minority groups continues to grow faster than the number earned by white recipients." The survey results weren't all rosy, however. According to the NSF, fewer doctorate recipients indicated definite employment commitments in the coming year than "before the advent of the recession." Among the respondents who indicated definite commitments, "a growing proportion are taking postdoctoral positions; 2009 marked the largest single-year increase in the proportion of doctorate recipients taking postdoc positions" since 2004, NSF adds.

HT: Nature's The Great Beyond

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