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  NSF 03-315 | April 2003   PDF format PDF format | See Related Reports  

Graduate Enrollment Increases in Science and Engineering Fields, Especially in Engineering and Computer Sciences

by Joan S. Burrelli Send an e-mail message to the author

In fall 2001, approximately 429,500 students were enrolled in science and engineering (S&E) programs at the graduate level, a 4 percent increase from the fall 2000 number of approximately 414,700 (table 1). Despite the increases, the number of science and engineering graduate students in 2001 was still below the 1993 peak of approximately 435,700. Full-time enrollment increased 4 percent, while part-time enrollment increased 2 percent, from 2000 to 2001. About 70 percent of science and engineering graduate students are enrolled full time.

Table 1. Graduate student enrollment in science and engineering, by enrollment status, citizenship, and race/ethnicity:  1993-2001
  Table 1 Source Data: Excel file

Enrollment by Citizenship

An increase of students with temporary visas accounts for much of the recent increase in graduate science and engineering enrollment. Enrollment of students with temporary visas increased 9 percent from approximately 121,800 in 2000 to approximately 133,300 in 2001 (table 1). Increases for such students were greatest in engineering (up 11 percent) and computer sciences (up 16 percent) (figure 1). The number of computer sciences graduate students with temporary visas rose 133 percent between 1994 and 2001. Students with temporary visas now make up almost half of graduate students in computer sciences and in engineering.

Figure 1. Graduate science and engineering enrollment of students with temporary visas, by field:  1994-2001
  Figure 1 Source Data: Excel file

The number of U.S. citizens and permanent residents enrolled in graduate science and engineering programs increased 1 percent from 2000 to 2001, reversing a decline that began in 1994. Among U.S. citizens and permanent residents, the number of white, non-Hispanic graduate S&E students was about the same in 2001 as it was in 2000, signalling a possible halt in the decline in white enrollment. Between 1993 and 2001, enrollment of white graduate students in science and engineering programs dropped 20 percent. Minority enrollment in graduate S&E programs increased from 2000 to 2001, continuing steady increases in most years throughout the period from 1993 to 2001. Enrollment of black and Hispanic graduate students rose 4 percent and enrollment of American Indian/Alaskan Native graduate students rose 5 percent from 2000 to 2001. The number of U.S. citizen and permanent resident Asians/Pacific Islanders enrolled in graduate S&E programs increased 5 percent in that time period (table 1).

Enrollment by Field

Computer sciences enrollment was up 10 percent.

Graduate enrollment rose in most science fields in 2001, although the numbers of students remained lower than in the early 1990s. The greatest gain in enrollment (10 percent) was in computer sciences. The only major field experiencing declines in enrollment was earth, atmospheric, and ocean sciences (down 1 percent) (table 2).

Table 2. Graduate student enrollment in science and engineering, by field:  1994-2001
  Table 2 Source Data: Excel file

Engineering enrollment rose 5 percent in 2001, the third increase in as many years. Graduate enrollment in all engineering fields rose, with the exception of chemical engineering. The engineering fields with the greatest gains were biomedical engineering (up 11 percent), metallurgical/materials engineering (up 8 percent), and electrical engineering (up 7 percent).

Data presented in this InfoBrief are from the fall 2001 Survey of Graduate Students and Postdoctorates in Science and Engineering. Data were collected from approximately 12,000 departments at approximately 600 institutions of higher education in the United States and outlying areas. The departmental response rate was 99 percent; however, 14 percent of the responding departments required partial imputation of missing data. More detailed data are available in the forthcoming report, Graduate Students and Postdoctorates in Science and Engineering: Fall 2001.

This InfoBrief was prepared by:

Joan S. Burrelli
National Science Foundation
Division of Science Resources Statistics
Human Resources Statistics Program
4201 Wilson Boulevard, Suite 965
Arlington, VA 22230