Recent Data About Philosophy PhDs

The National Science Foundation (NSF) has released some data about people who received PhDs in philosophy in the United States in 2021.

[manipulated image of an untitled Donald Judd sculpture]

Some of the data is specific to Philosophy PhDs, other data lumps together Philosophy and Religious Studies, and some is for the broad category of Humanities. Some of it is posted below (using the labels and categories the NSF uses).

Here’s the philosophy-specific data. In 2021 in the United States:

  • 399 people were awarded PhDs in Philosophy
  • 264 are identified as male, 135 as female (33.8% female)
  • 73 were temporary visa holders
  • Ethnicity/Race:
    • 26 Hispanic or Latino
    • 0 American Indian or Native Alaskan
    • 12 Asian
    • 8 Black or African
    • 235 White
    • 9 more than one race,
    • 7 other race or not reported
    • 8 ethnicity not reported

Here’s the data regarding the composite group of Philosophy PhD recipients and Religious Studies recipients in 2021:

  • 70.1% have an undergraduate major in the same field as their PhD
  • The breakdown by field of employment of those with definite employment plans upon receiving their PhD:
    • 64.7% academia
    • 2.7% government
    • 10.4% business or industry
    • 4.5% non profit
    • 7.7 unknown
  • Of those with academic jobs lined up:
    • 35% have tenure-track jobs
    • 60.8% have non-tenure-track jobs
    • Categorized by sex:
      • Males: 31.5% tenure-track, 64% non-tenure track
      • Females: 40.7% tenure-track, 55.6% non-tenure track
  • 26.4% have at least one dependent under the age of 18 upon degree (31% of males do, 18.3% of females do)
  • 44.8% are married and another 12.5% are in “marriage-like” relationships
  • 16.1% have reported “functional limitations”

And regarding Humanities PhDs in general:

  • Median number of years to complete PhD in humanities field:  6.9 years
  • Median age of humanities PhD recipient: 34.6 years old
  • Median total educational debt of humanities PhD recipient (including debt from undergraduate education): $45,000

You can see more related data at the NSF’s site.

UPDATE (10/10/22): See this post at the APDA Blog for why there are “suddenly far fewer Philosophy PhDs” (via Carolyn Dicey Jennings in the comments).

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Carolyn Dicey Jennings
1 year ago

Very helpful, thanks!

Readers curious about the apparent decline in the number of philosophy PhDs may be interested in this post at APDA blog: Hopefully we will figure out what is going on with these numbers.

1 year ago

For the race/ethnicity breakdown of Phil PhDs, adding up all the categories gets to 305 individuals. But 399 were awarded PhDs. Does that mean 94 had an unreported race/ethnicity? If so, why are only 8 listed as “ethnicity not reported”?

Prof L
Prof L
Reply to  Ben
1 year ago

Looked it up—looks like the racial/ethnic background is only reported for US citizens or permanent residents, which they say total 305. Temp visa holders account for another 73, so there must be like 21 with some other (??) status.

Last edited 1 year ago by Prof L
Colin Allen
1 year ago

Having served on the committee of 2021 ASU PhD Kelle Dhein, a member of the Diné tribe, I’m immediately suspicious of the data. (Which is not to say that moving that needle from zero to one is any better look for the profession.)

Beckett Sterner
Beckett Sterner
Reply to  Colin Allen
1 year ago

Hi Colin, I had the same thought as Kelle’s PhD advisor but technically he graduated from the Biology and Society PhD program at ASU, so I’m guessing it wasn’t counted under “Philosophy” by the NSF.