A favorite interview question for PhD program applicants goes as follows: “How do you feel about the idea of transitioning from a knowledge consumer to a knowledge producer?” Because when you strip research doctoral programs down to their core mission, they exist to produce not only knowledge producers, but new knowledge itself.
Some applicants have thought about this before, and others have not. Whether or not they’ve considered the question previously, good conversation generally flows, particularly when chatting with the better applicants.
There are several ways to quantify the level of knowledge production. One way is to simply count the number of research PhD’s that are produced. In 2013, over 60,000 research PhD’s were awarded in the US. The map above shows PhD production by city in the mainland US. These cities, collectively, are where the engines of knowledge production operate in the country.
Generally, when you count things that happen in cities, the counts in larger cities are higher than in smaller cities simply because more things happen where more people live and work.
Careful inspection shows that isn’t necessarily the case here. Yes, southern California and the New York city areas produce a lot of knowledge, and have a lot of people. But as you move across the map there are smaller cities that produce the same or even more PhD’s then nearby large cities. For example, Boulder CO just north of Denver; Columbia MO sandwiched between the larger Kansas City and St. Louis metro areas; Austin TX west of nearby Houston, and Gainesville FL north of Miami. Many more PhD’s are awarded in Cambridge MA than in Boston.
But the city producing the most PhD’s is Minneapolis MN, where over 2400 research PhD’s awarded in 2013. That number is roughly divisible in thirds by the non-profit University of Minnesota-Twin Cities campus, and two for-profit schools, Capella and Walden Universities.