June 12, 2005
June 12, 2005
June 15, 2005
10.702.1 - 10.702.7
How Long Does it Take to Earn a Ph.D. in Engineering: A Case Study Wayne E. Whiteman, Ph.D., P.E. Woodruff School of Mechanical Engineering Georgia Institute of Technology Atlanta, Georgia 30332-0405
A case study is conducted of the length of time it takes to earn a Ph.D. in engineering. Four hundred twenty-one individuals who earned their Ph.D. from the Woodruff School of Mechanical Engineering at the Georgia Institute of Technology in Atlanta, Georgia are studied. This case study looks at data over nearly a twenty year period from 1985 to 2004. The individuals earned doctorates in the disciplines of mechanical engineering, nuclear and radiological engineering, and health physics. The study focuses on two major subcategories; the time to earn a Ph.D. beyond a Bachelor’s degree, and the time to earn a Ph.D. beyond a Master of Science degree. Various analyses are conducted and some comparisons are made with previous studies.
Introduction and Background
This paper presents a case study that was conducted to determine the length of time it takes to earn a Ph.D. in engineering. The data for this study was gathered at the Woodruff School of Mechanical Engineering at the Georgia Institute of Technology in Atlanta, Georgia.
Previous studies suggest that the time to the doctorate in science and engineering fields has been lengthening. In a study conducted by Tuckman and others on data from 1967 to 1986, the median total time to doctorate beyond the undergraduate degree increased from 7.09 years to 7.83 years in the field of engineering.1 The mean total time during this same time frame rose from 8.39 years with a standard deviation of 4.49 years to a mean total time of 9.27 years with a standard deviation of 4.88 years.
Interestingly, another study in 1995 by Massy and Goldman2 found that attainment rates (percentage of students who eventually attain the Ph.D. degree) correlate positively with time-to- degree calculations. A higher percentage of students attain the degree if they complete their studies relatively quickly. Their study found that those students who took longer, struggle to attain the degree, and may never complete the degree requirements. Another interesting observation of this study was that the “slow tail” of graduates tends to take longer to get the degree in the less elite institutional segments. This effect appeared more pronounced in public than private institutions.
“Proceedings of the 2005 American Society for Engineering Education Annual Conference & Exposition Copyright ©2005, American Society for Engineering Education”
Whiteman, W. (2005, June), How Long Does It Take To Earn A Ph.D. In Engineering: A Case Study Paper presented at 2005 Annual Conference, Portland, Oregon. https://peer.asee.org/14403
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