The period 1967–1987 saw a 20% increase in the time it takes to complete the doctorate. That figure is based on data provided by the National Research Council from 11 scientific and engineering fields, including the Earth, atmospheric and marine sciences.
The median time spent earning the degree rose from 5.4 years in 1967 to 6.1 years in 1977 to 6.9 years in 1987—an increase of 1.5 years in a single generation. Completion time still seems to be rising! All graduating doctoral students in 1987 had a median age of 33.6 years; chemistry students were youngest at 29, and education students were the oldsters at 39.8 years.