Total U.S. enrollment of foreign graduate students
in science and engineering (S&E) fields continued to decline in 2005, but enrollment of first-time, full-time foreign S&E graduate students rose 4% over the 2004 level—the first increase since 2001 (table 1). First-time, full-time S&E graduate enrollment of students overall and of students with U.S. citizenship or permanent resident status both rose by about 3% over 2004 levels. Total S&E graduate student enrollment and numbers of postdoctoral appointees (postdocs) in S&E fields reached new peaks in 2005. Data are from the 2005 Survey of Graduate Students and Postdoctorates in Science and Engineering, cosponsored by the National Science Foundation (NSF) and the National Institutes of Health (NIH).
Table 1 Source Data: Excel file
S&E Graduate Student Enrollment
S&E graduate enrollment increased slightly in 2005 due to a rise in enrollment of U.S. citizens and permanent residents (table 1). Since reaching its peak in 2003, foreign S&E graduate enrollment has dropped by almost 6%. Foreign students constituted 31% of all S&E graduate students enrolled in 2003; in 2005 that proportion was 29%. Foreign enrollment has increased by 41% over the 10-year period beginning in 1995, whereas enrollment for U.S. citizens and permanent residents has increased by 5% over the same period. In 2004 foreign student enrollment declined in both number and proportion, and this decline continued in 2005, with the number of foreign students dropping 3% and the proportion of students dropping from 30% to 29%.
Enrollment of U.S. citizens and permanent residents in 2005 was the highest ever (339,550); the previous peak was in 1993 (330,057). Although the gain in numbers in 2005 was greater than it was in 2004, it was much smaller than it was in 2002 or 2003.
Field of Study
Graduate enrollment in 2005 declined in four of the nine major S&E fields: agricultural sciences; computer sciences; earth, atmospheric, and ocean sciences; and engineering (table 2). Enrollment in computer sciences dropped 4% between 2004 and 2005; since 2002, enrollment has dropped 13%. Engineering enrollment dropped for the second straight year, with the largest decline (4%) in the subfield of electrical engineering; the only engineering subfields with increasing enrollment were aerospace engineering, biomedical engineering, and metallurgical/materials engineering. Of the fields of study with the largest graduate enrollments (10,000 or more), growth was greatest in psychology (6%) and in the social sciences subfield of political science (5%).
Table 2 Source Data: Excel file
Trends in first-time, full-time S&E enrollment varied by field and citizenship (table 3, figure 1). The increase in 2005 in first-time, full-time enrollments of temporary visa holders is largely the result of enrollment increases in engineering and computer sciences—the two fields attracting the largest numbers of foreign students. First-time, full-time foreign graduate student enrollment in most other S&E fields, exemplified by the biological sciences, was relatively stable. Psychology and social sciences contributed most to the increase in 2005 in first-time, full-time enrollments of U.S. citizens and permanent residents.
Table 3 Source Data: Excel file
Figure 1 Source Data: Excel file
The proportion of women among all S&E graduate students grew from 38% in 1995 to 43% in 2005 (table 1). Enrollment of female students has increased every year for the last 20 years, including a 2% increase in 2005. In contrast, after reaching a peak of about 280,300 in 1992, enrollment of men declined every year from 1993 to 1998. Enrollment of men grew by 14% between 1998 and 2003, with foreign men accounting for most (84%) of this growth. Since 2003 the number of male graduate students in S&E fields has decreased slightly each year (less than 1%). In both 2004 and 2005 enrollment of foreign men dropped; the 4% decline in 2005 was responsible for the small drop in enrollment of male S&E graduate students.
Enrollment of minority students with U.S. citizenship or permanent resident status has increased in graduate S&E programs over the past decade (table 1). In contrast, enrollment of white citizens and permanent residents fell until 2001 and has shown a smaller percentage increase between 2001 and 2005 than has minority enrollment. In 2005 white, non-Hispanic students accounted for 67% of all U.S. citizens and permanent residents enrolled in S&E graduate programs, down 1 percentage point since 2004 and 9 percentage points since 1995 (76%). Asian/Pacific Islanders were the second largest racial/ethnic group among U.S. citizens and permanent residents, accounting for 9% of enrollment in S&E graduate programs in 2005. Blacks accounted for 7.5% of all U.S. citizens and permanent residents, followed by Hispanics (6.9%), and American Indian/Alaska Natives (less than 1%). Underrepresented minority enrollment (black, non-Hispanic; Hispanic; American Indian/Alaska Native) has increased 50% since 1995 and in 2005 accounted for 15% of the U.S. citizens and permanent residents enrolled.
Numbers of postdocs in S&E fields rose over most of the period covered by this report, reaching a record high of 34,584 in 2005; however, growth slowed substantially in 2004 and 2005 (table 1). Numbers of postdocs who were U.S. citizens or permanent residents and numbers of postdocs with temporary visas each increased about 2% over 2004 levels.
The number of foreign postdocs has increased by 53% since 1995, whereas the number of U.S. citizen and permanent resident postdocs has grown by 11%.
This publication provides the first release of data from the fall 2005 NSF-NIH Survey of Graduate Students and Postdoctorates in Science and Engineering. This survey is intended to cover students and postdocs in U.S. academic institutions. Data were collected from 12,396 departments at 588 institutions of higher education in the United States, Puerto Rico, and Guam. Of the departments surveyed, 98% responded; however, 10% of the reporting departments required imputation of missing data.
The full set of detailed tables from this survey will be available in the report Graduate Students and Postdoctorates in Science and Engineering: Fall 2005 at http://www.nsf.gov/statistics/gradpostdoc/. Individual detailed tables from the 2005 survey may be available in advance of the full report. For further information, or for details on the survey methodology used, contact
Division of Science Resources Statistics
Human Resources Statistics Program
National Science Foundation
4201 Wilson Boulevard, Suite 965
Arlington, VA 22230
 Foreign students are those with temporary visas.