Are you curious about the number of people who hold a PhD degree? It’s a fascinating topic that provides valuable insights into the academic world and the job market.

If you’re short on time, here’s a quick answer to your question: Approximately 2% of the US population holds a PhD degree.

In this article, we will dive deeper into the statistics and trends of PhD holders in the US and beyond. We will discuss the benefits and drawbacks of pursuing a PhD, the job prospects, and the gender and racial disparities in the field.

Whether you’re considering getting a PhD or just want to know more about this academic degree, this article has got you covered.

The Number of PhD Holders in the US and Worldwide

PhD holders are highly educated individuals who have completed rigorous academic programs and have specialized knowledge in a particular field of study. In the United States, the number of PhD holders has been steadily increasing over the years. According to the National Science Foundation, in 2017, there were approximately 70,000 PhDs awarded in the US, which is the highest number ever recorded.

When compared to other countries, the US has a higher percentage of PhD holders. According to, as of 2021, the United States has the highest number of PhD holders in the world, with approximately 70% of the population holding a doctoral degree. Other countries with high percentages of PhD holders include Israel, Germany, and Switzerland.

The most common fields of study for PhD holders in the US are in the fields of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM), followed by social sciences and humanities. In 2017, the top fields for PhDs awarded in the US were in life sciences, physical sciences, and engineering.

Country Percentage of population with PhD
United States 70%
Israel 49%
Germany 28%
Switzerland 25%

The high number of PhD holders in the US and around the world highlights the importance of higher education and academic research. PhD holders are often leaders in their respective fields and contribute to innovative solutions to problems facing society.

The Benefits and Drawbacks of Pursuing a PhD

Getting a PhD is a significant accomplishment and a personal milestone for many students. However, it’s not a decision to be taken lightly, as it requires a significant investment of time, energy, and resources. Here are some of the benefits and drawbacks of pursuing a PhD degree:

The Advantages of Getting a PhD Degree

  • Expertise and skills: Pursuing a PhD allows you to develop a deep understanding of your chosen field and acquire advanced research, critical thinking, and problem-solving skills.
  • Prestige and recognition: A PhD is a highly respected degree and is often considered the highest level of academic achievement.
  • Career opportunities: A PhD can open doors to a wide range of career opportunities, including academia, research, industry, and government.
  • Salary: According to Payscale, the average salary for a PhD holder is $87,000 per year.

The Disadvantages of Getting a PhD Degree

  • Time commitment: Pursuing a PhD can take several years, and you may need to sacrifice other aspects of your life, such as your career or personal relationships.
  • Financial burden: A PhD can be expensive, and you may need to take out loans or find other sources of funding to cover your tuition, living expenses, and research costs.
  • Stress and pressure: Pursuing a PhD can be mentally and emotionally challenging, and it’s not uncommon for students to experience stress, anxiety, or depression.
  • Uncertainty: There’s no guarantee that you’ll find a job or career path that matches your interests and qualifications after completing a PhD.

The Value of a PhD in the Job Market

While a PhD can open doors to many career opportunities, it’s important to recognize that it’s not a guarantee of employment. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, individuals with a doctoral degree have a lower unemployment rate and higher median weekly earnings than those with a bachelor’s or master’s degree. However, job prospects and salaries can vary widely depending on your field of study, location, and other factors.

Field of Study Median Salary for PhD Holders Projected Job Growth (2019-2029)
Computer Science $122,840 15%
Life Sciences $94,340 5%
Social Sciences $85,240 14%
Engineering $110,090 3%

Ultimately, the decision to pursue a PhD should be based on your personal interests, goals, and values. While it can be a challenging and rewarding journey, it’s important to weigh the potential benefits and drawbacks before making a commitment.

Gender and Racial Disparities in the Field of PhD

While the number of people earning PhD degrees has been steadily increasing year after year, there are still significant disparities when it comes to gender and race in this field.

As of 2021, approximately 54% of people earning PhD degrees in the United States are men, while only 46% are women. This gender gap is especially noticeable in certain fields, such as engineering and the physical sciences.

Similarly, underrepresented minorities, including Black, Hispanic, and Native American individuals, make up only about 10% of those earning PhD degrees. This is a troubling statistic, especially considering that these groups are often underrepresented in higher education as a whole.

So why do these disparities exist? There are a number of factors at play, including social and cultural barriers that may discourage certain groups from pursuing advanced degrees. For example, women and minorities may face discrimination or bias in academic settings, which can make it more difficult for them to succeed.

However, there are also efforts underway to address these issues and increase diversity in PhD programs. Many universities and organizations are working to provide support and resources for underrepresented groups, such as mentorship programs and financial aid opportunities.

Ultimately, it is important to continue to track these statistics and work towards creating a more equitable and inclusive academic environment for all individuals pursuing advanced degrees.

The Job Prospects for PhD Holders

Getting a PhD takes a lot of time, dedication, and hard work, so it’s natural to wonder what kind of job prospects come with such an achievement. Here are some statistics and trends to consider:

The Unemployment Rate for PhD Holders

According to Bureau of Labor Statistics, the unemployment rate for people with a PhD is consistently lower than the national average, which means that PhD holders are generally more likely to find work. However, it’s important to note that certain fields may have higher or lower unemployment rates than others.

The Salary Range for PhD Holders

PhD holders tend to earn higher salaries than people with less education. The average salary for someone with a PhD is about $80,000 per year, but it can vary widely depending on the field. For example, a PhD holder in engineering may earn more than a PhD holder in the humanities. Additionally, salaries can vary depending on the job sector and geographic location.

The Job Sectors that Employ PhD Holders

PhD holders are employed in a variety of sectors, including academia, government, and the private sector. According to National Science Foundation data, the highest percentage of PhD holders overall are employed in educational institutions, followed by the private sector. However, this can vary depending on the field of study. For example, PhD holders in life sciences are more likely to work in industry than those in humanities or social sciences.

The Skills that PhD Holders Possess

PhD holders possess a variety of skills that can be valuable in the job market. These include critical thinking, problem-solving, research skills, and the ability to communicate complex ideas to others. In addition, PhD holders often have a deep knowledge of their field of study, which can make them valuable assets in certain sectors.


In conclusion, the number of people with a PhD degree is relatively small compared to the overall population, but it has been growing steadily over the years. Pursuing a PhD can bring many benefits, but it also comes with its own set of challenges and drawbacks.

Gender and racial disparities continue to exist in the field of PhD, but efforts are being made to improve diversity and inclusivity. The job prospects for PhD holders are varied and depend on many factors, including the field of study and the skills acquired during the program.

We hope this article has provided you with a better understanding of the world of PhD and the people who pursue this degree. If you have any questions or comments, feel free to share them with us.

Similar Posts