50 Schools That Produce the Most Science and Engineering PhDs

I got an email this week from a California mother who was happy that her child would be a attending St. Mary’s College of Maryland, a wonderful public liberal arts college, in the fall.

Her husband, however, remained skeptical. He worried that his daughter would be jeopardizing her chances of going to graduate school if she went to an obscure liberal arts school. He thought she’d have a better shot at attending graduate school if she earned her bachelor’s degree from a large state university in California or elsewhere.

Here’s my answer to that:  Nonsense.

Students who attend liberal arts colleges enjoy many advantages that students at large public institutions often don’t.

At liberal arts colleges, there is a much greater chance for undergraduate research. Classes are routinely small. Instead of 200 or 300 in Calculus II, you may have 15 or 20 students. Students have more opportunity to develop bonds with professors because the learning is in small settings and not lecture halls. And remember, it’s the professors who are writing those graduate school recommendations. My son, who is a sophomore who intends to major in math and minor in physics at Beloit College, is certainly experiencing the benefits of connecting with his professors.

Okay, you might be wondering, but where are your facts to back up your claims?

To answer the email from the mom, I tracked down a report produced by the National Science Foundation that examined where scientists and engineers, who had earned PhD’s, had obtained their undergraduate degrees. The majority of schools in the top 50 list of PhD-producing schools were liberal arts colleges.

When the NSF  looked at what schools were producing the most PhD’s, per 100 undergraduate degrees granted, only three public institutions made the list – University of California-Berkeley, William and Mary College and New Mexico Institute of Mining and Technology.

50 Top Schools for Science & Engineering PhDs

Without further ado, here are the top 50 schools where graduates ultimately received a PhD in science or engineering:

  1. Cal Tech
  2. Harvey Mudd College
  3. MIT
  4. Reed College
  5. Swarthmore College
  6. Carleton College
  7. University of Chicago
  8. Grinnell College
  9. Rice University
  10. Princeton University
  11. Harvard  University
  12. Bryn Mawr College
  13. Haverford College
  14. Pomona College
  15. New Mexico Institute of Mining & Technology
  16. Williams College
  17. Yale Univeristy
  18. Oberlin College
  19. Stanford University
  20. Johns Hopkins University
  21. Kalamazoo College
  22. Cornell University
  23. Case Western Reserve
  24. Washington College
  25. Brown University
  26. Wesleyan University
  27. Carnegie Mellon University
  28. Macalester College
  29. Amherst College
  30. Duke University
  31. Beloit College (My son’s school.)
  32. Bowdoin Collge
  33. Wellesley College
  34. Ressenlaer Polytechnic Institute
  35. Earlham College
  36. Franklin and Marshall College
  37. Lawrence University
  38. University of Rochester
  39. University of California-Berkeley
  40. Dartmouth College
  41. Occidental College
  42. Hendrix College
  43. Vassar College
  44. Trinity University
  45. College of William and Mary
  46. St. John College
  47. Bates College
  48. Whitman College
  49. Brandeis University
  50. Hampshire College

Lynn O’Shaughnessy is the author of The College Solution, an Amazon bestseller, and she has just released an eBook, Shrinking the Cost of College: 152 Ways to Cut the Cost of a Bachelor’s Degree. Follow me on Twitter.

Read More:

Which is Better: A University or Liberal Arts College?

New York University: Tale of 2 Students

Beware of Wildly Different Grad Rates


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8 Responses to 50 Schools That Produce the Most Science and Engineering PhDs

  1. Ron Voss November 4, 2011 at 11:38 pm #

    What is significant about “per 100 undergraduate degrees granted” as opposed to “per 10″ or “per 1000″ or any other number? Do more or fewer publics make the list if a number other than 100 is chosen?

    • Peter F November 11, 2011 at 5:57 pm #

      No the per 100 just allows you to compare different sized schools with each other. If they did it by total number of PhDs then big schools would have all the top spots. It could be any number though.

      • Lynn O'Shaughnessy November 11, 2011 at 6:00 pm #

        Thanks Peter for the explanation. I forgot to reply to that original question. My bad!

        Lynn O’Shaughnessy

  2. Brendan December 2, 2011 at 10:05 pm #

    The number of PhD’s the institution grants is a meaningless statistic. One instead needs to look at the number and quality of peer-reviewed research publications. Some of the school listed here are notoriously known in their respective specialty fields for granting graduate degrees of minimum content and poor quality. The actual list of of the best schools for earning a PhD is completely different.

    • Jessica January 27, 2012 at 2:50 am #

      Ummm— these aren’t the best schools for earning a PhD. And this isn’t the number of PhD’s that institutions grant. This is, based on 100 degrees earned, the number of students who go on to get PhDs after earning their undergraduate degree from one of these schools. So it’s essentially the best school to get your undergraduate degree from if your end goal is earning a PhD in science or engineering.

      And you’ll notice that many of these schools don’t even grant PhDs (e.g. small liberal arts schools such as Carleton or Lawrence).

      • Lynn O'Shaughnessy January 27, 2012 at 4:34 am #

        Hi Jessica,

        You’re right. This isn’t a post about PhD institutions. My post was about institutions that produce, as a percentage of their undergrads, the most students who end up getting PhDs. Yes, as you suggest, many of these schools are liberal arts colleges that don’t have PhD programs. That’s the point I was trying to make. You don’t need to go to a research university as an undergrad if you want to eventually get a PhD!

        Lynn O’Shaughnessy

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