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subsidize about half the doctoral-degree recipients in the United States and employ the professors who educate them.
Federal support for graduate education of scientists and engineers, a more recent phenomenon, expanded rapidly after World War II with the establishment of the National Science Foundation (NSF), the National Institutes of Health (NIH), and other agencies. Funding for the education of graduate scientists and engineers grew rapidly in the late 1950s after the launching of Sputnik in 1957 and passage of the National Defense Education Act in 1958. The federal government has developed a number of programs for the direct support of graduate education, including fellowships, traineeships, research-infrastructure grants, and institutional development grants.
The number of graduate science and engineering students increased roughly in parallel to the amount of federally funded scientific and engineering research from 1958 to 1988. Between 1958 and 1968, the number of PhDs awarded annually to scientists and engineers tripled to about 18,000. That swift growth lasted until the early 1970s, when national policy changes brought about the curtailment of most federal fellowships and traineeships.2 Thus, the annual production of science and engineering doctorates peaked at near 19,400 during 1971-1973 and fell to fewer than 18,000 during 1977-1985. The production of PhDs began to rise again in the late 1980s and reached 25,000 in 1993 (see Figure 1-1). Most of the net growth after 1985 was due to an increased number of foreign students with temporary student visas (see Figure 1-2).
Since the late 1980s, the institutions that conduct research in concert with graduate education have been buffeted by a series of political, economic, and social changes. The end
The doctor of philosophy degree is the highest academic degree granted by North American universities. PhD programs are designed to prepare students to become scholars, that is, to discover, integrate, and apply knowledge, as well as to communicate and disseminate it.
A doctoral program is an apprenticeship that consists of lecture or laboratory courses, seminars, examinations, discussions, independent study, research, and, in many instances, teaching.
The first year or two of study is normally a probationary period, during which a preliminary or qualifying examination might be required. The probationary period is followed by an examination for admission to full candidacy, when students devote essentially full time to completing dissertation research. This research, planned with the major adviser and the dissertation committee, usually takes 1-3 years, depending on the field. An oral defense of the research and dissertation before a graduate committee constitutes the final examination.
Source: CGS, 1990
Box 1-2: The PhD Degree