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Graduate Enrollment in Science and Engineering Grew Substantially in the Past Decade but Slowed in 2010

NSF 12-317 | May 2012 | PDF format. PDF  
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by Kelly Kang[1]

Approximately 632,700 graduate students were enrolled in science, engineering, and health (SEH) programs in the United States as of fall 2010, a 30% increase from approximately 493,300 students in 2000, according to the National Science Foundation's (NSF's) Survey of Graduate Students and Postdoctorates in Science and Engineering (GSS). The growth in first-time, full-time (FTFT) graduate student enrollment in science and engineering (S&E) programs over this time was even greater, with a 50% increase from approximately 78,400 students in 2000 to approximately 118,500 students in 2010 (figure 1).

FIGURE 1. First-time, full-time graduate students in science and engineering fields: 2000–10.

                                     Figure 1 Source Data: Excel file

Due to the extra variability that may have resulted from the methodological changes in the 2007 GSS, all growth rate calculations comparing pre- and post-2007 counts are rounded to the nearest 5%. See "Data Sources and Limitations" for more information.

Continuing the decade-long trend, overall graduate enrollment in S&E reached a new peak in 2010, with 407,291 students in science fields and 149,241 students in engineering fields (table 1). However, rates of growth in these fields slowed considerably between 2009 and 2010 from the two previous years—particularly in FTFT enrollment, which had only a 1.7% gain in science programs and 4.0% gain in engineering programs. Annual increases in 2007–08 and 2008–09 for FTFT graduate enrollment were 7.6% and 6.4% in science and 8.2% and 6.2% in engineering, respectively (figure 1).

TABLE 1. Graduate enrollment in science, engineering, and health fields, by field: 2000–10
% change
Field 2000 2001 2002 2003 2004 2005 2006 2007
olda
2007
newa
2008 2009 2010 2000
–10b
2009
–10
All survey fields 493,311 509,607 540,404 567,121 574,463 582,226 597,643 607,823 619,499 631,489 631,645 632,652 30 0.2
Science and engineering 413,536 429,229 454,834 474,645 475,873 478,275 486,287 502,375 516,199 529,275 545,685 556,532 35 2.0
Science 309,424 319,736 335,166 347,268 352,307 357,710 363,246 372,120 384,523 391,419 401,008 407,291 30 1.6
Agricultural sciences 12,023 12,235 12,698 13,197 13,445 13,123 13,016 13,222 13,528 14,153 15,200 15,656 30 3.0
Biological sciences 56,282 57,639 61,088 64,701 66,565 68,479 69,941 71,663 71,932 72,666 73,304 74,928 35 2.2
Computer sciences 47,350 52,196 55,269 53,696 50,016 47,978 47,653 48,959 48,246 49,553 51,161 51,546 10 0.8
Earth, atmospheric, and
ocean sciences
13,941 13,841 14,240 14,620 15,131 14,836 14,920 14,675 14,100 14,389 14,839 15,655 10 5.5
Mathematical sciences 15,650 16,651 18,163 19,465 19,931 20,210 20,815 21,335 20,975 21,400 22,226 23,136 50 4.1
Physical sciences 30,385 31,038 32,341 34,298 35,761 36,375 36,901 37,111 36,824 37,319 38,149 38,973 30 2.2
Psychologyc 50,466 50,454 51,152 52,162 54,126 57,282 57,653 60,284 59,617 58,991 56,184 53,419 5 -4.9
Social sciences 83,327 85,682 90,215 95,129 97,332 99,427 102,347 104,871 103,150 103,384 107,820 109,220 30 1.3
Other sciencesa,d ne ne ne ne ne ne ne ne 16,151 19,564 22,125 24,758 - 11.9
Engineering 104,112 109,493 119,668 127,377 123,566 120,565 123,041 130,255 131,676 137,856 144,677 149,241 45 3.2
Aerospace engineering 3,407 3,451 3,685 4,048 4,089 4,170 4,482 4,616 4,616 4,902 5,266 5,540 65 5.2
Architecturea ne ne ne ne ne ne ne ne 4,601 5,905 6,804 6,795 - -0.1
Biomedical engineering 3,197 3,599 4,338 5,301 5,807 6,067 6,482 6,881 6,904 7,339 7,904 8,497 165 7.5
Chemical engineering 7,056 6,913 7,414 7,516 7,452 7,173 7,261 7,383 7,584 7,892 8,188 8,668 25 5.9
Civil engineeringa 16,451 16,665 17,713 18,890 18,561 18,114 17,802 19,867 16,071 16,931 18,638 19,559 20 4.9
Electrical engineering 33,611 36,100 39,948 41,763 38,995 37,450 38,265 40,207 40,588 41,164 41,218 41,336 25 0.3
Industrial engineering 12,119 12,940 14,033 14,313 13,852 13,650 13,829 14,290 14,474 15,692 15,825 15,205 25 -3.9
Mechanical engineering 15,235 15,852 17,139 18,393 17,852 17,373 17,919 18,366 18,347 19,585 21,243 22,509 50 6.0
Metallurgical/materials engineering 4,377 4,721 4,992 5,131 5,059 5,160 5,268 5,365 5,314 5,539 5,863 6,274 45 7.0
Other engineering 8,659 9,252 10,406 12,022 11,899 11,408 11,733 13,280 13,177 12,907 13,728 14,858 70 8.2
Health 79,775 80,378 85,570 92,476 98,590 103,951 111,356 105,448 103,300 102,214 85,960 76,120 -5 -11.4
Clinical medicinea,e 16,407 17,363 19,166 20,574 20,866 21,414 23,441 24,616 22,751 23,939 24,125 25,699 55 6.5
Other healthc 63,368 63,015 66,404 71,902 77,724 82,537 87,915 80,832 80,549 78,275 61,835 50,421 -20 -18.5

ne = not eligible; data were not collected for this field before 2007. - = not calculable.

a In 2007 survey was redesigned and five fields were added or reclassified to improve reporting. "2007new" shows data as collected in 2007; "2007old" shows data as they would have been collected in prior years. Due to methodological changes, counts should be used with caution for trend analysis. See http://www.nsf.gov/statistics/nsf10307/ for more detail.

b "% change 2000–10" is rounded to nearest 5% to reflect potential imprecision of this estimate due to methodological changes in 2007.

c Counts in psychology and other health declined in 2008, 2009, and 2010, potentially due to more rigorous follow-up with institutions regarding the exclusion of practitioner-oriented graduate degree programs. These decreases may not reflect changes in actual enrollments, and care should be used when examining trends.

d Includes communication, family and consumer sciences/human sciences, neuroscience, and multidisciplinary/interdisciplinary studies. These fields were added in 2007, although some programs reported within them had been reported prior to 2007 within other fields.

e Includes research-oriented graduate students in anesthesiology, cardiology, endocrinology, gastroenterology, hematology, neurology, obstetrics/gynecology, oncology/cancer research, ophthalmology, otorhinolaryngology, pediatrics, preventive medicine/community health, psychiatry, pulmonary disease, radiology, surgery, and clinical medicine, not elsewhere classified.

SOURCE: National Science Foundation/National Center for Science and Engineering Statistics, NSF-NIH Survey of Graduate Students and Postdoctorates in Science and Engineering.

Table 1 Source Data: Excel file

Enrollment in biomedical engineering, which increased by 7.5% between 2009 and 2010, continues to be one of the fastest growing S&E fields and has experienced the most rapid growth over the last decade (165%), from approximately 3,200 graduate students in 2000 to 8,500 students in 2010 (table 1).

These and other findings in this InfoBrief are from the fall 2010 GSS, cosponsored by NSF and the National Institutes of Health (NIH). The GSS is an annual survey of all academic institutions in the United States that grant research-based master's degrees or doctorates in SEH fields. The GSS collects data on the number and characteristics of graduate students, postdoctoral appointees (postdocs), and other doctorate-holding non-faculty researchers in SEH fields. This InfoBrief focuses on the graduate students and postdocs within S&E fields. Further analysis of GSS data on graduate enrollment in selected health fields can be obtained from NIH.[2]

Graduate Student Enrollment in S&E

Between 2000 and 2010 enrollment in S&E graduate programs rose at a slightly faster pace for woman than for men (approximately 40% versus approximately 30%) (table 2). As a result, women's share of graduate S&E enrollment also rose over this period (41.2% in 2000 to 43.2% in 2010, peaking at 44.0% in 2007). The slight drop in the women's share since 2007 has been due to the faster rise in men's S&E graduate enrollment (9.4% for men versus 5.8% for women).

TABLE 2. Graduate enrollment in science and engineering fields, by enrollment status, sex, citizenship, and race/ethnicity of U.S. citizens and permanent residents: 2000–10
% change
Characteristic 2000 2001 2002 2003 2004 2005 2006 2007
olda
2007
newa
2008 2009 2010 2009
–10b
2009
–10
All science and engineering 413,536 429,229 454,834 474,645 475,873 478,275 486,287 502,375 516,199 529,275 545,685 556,532 35 2.0
Full time 291,355 304,021 325,472 339,028 340,529 341,742 349,802 362,976 371,542 383,560 398,498 409,107 40 2.7
Part time 122,181 125,208 129,362 135,617 135,344 136,533 136,485 139,399 144,657 145,715 147,187 147,425 20 0.2
Male 243,057 251,810 266,217 276,248 274,008 271,967 275,181 284,080 288,926 297,278 307,936 316,051 30 2.6
Female 170,479 177,419 188,617 198,397 201,865 206,308 211,106 218,295 227,273 231,997 237,749 240,481 40 1.1
U.S. citizen or permanent resident 290,651 294,608 309,119 327,181 332,022 338,513 343,603 353,142 365,091 369,781 382,342 390,403 35 2.1
Hispanic or Latino 17,203 17,974 19,634 21,241 22,212 23,387 24,140 25,032 25,739 26,098 27,265 28,609 65 4.9
Not Hispanic or Latino
American Indian or Alaska Native 1,602 1,683 1,734 1,879 1,848 1,958 2,112 2,168 2,262 2,618 2,549 2,500 55 -1.9
Asian 23,748 25,467 28,290 30,746 29,570 29,547 29,232 30,134 30,697 30,356 31,754 32,185 35 1.4
Black or African American 20,834 21,455 22,668 24,174 24,624 25,248 25,664 26,565 27,637 28,680 29,973 31,094 50 3.7
Native Hawaiian or Other Pacific
   Islanderc
1,250 1,027 939 1,040 1,075 1,027 947 1,145 1,200 1,121 1,125 1,088 -15 -3.3
White 205,569 206,018 213,135 222,674 224,850 225,776 227,993 232,043 240,204 242,623 250,443 255,256 25 2.0
More than one racec 439 464 384 423 493 528 501 543 551 1,319 2,300 4,989 1,035 116.9
Unknown race/ethnicity 20,006 20,520 22,335 25,004 27,350 31,042 33,014 35,512 36,801 36,966 36,933 34,682 75 -6.1
Temporary visa holder 122,885 134,621 145,715 147,464 143,851 139,762 142,684 149,233 151,108 159,494 163,343 166,129 35 1.7

a In 2007 survey was redesigned and five fields were added or reclassified to improve reporting. "2007new" shows data as collected in 2007; "2007old" shows data as they would have been collected in prior years. Due to methodological changes, counts should be used with caution for trend analysis. See http://www.nsf.gov/statistics/nsf10307/ for more detail.

b "% change 2000–10" is rounded to nearest 5% to reflect potential imprecision of this estimate due to methodological changes in 2007.

c Reporting of race/ethnicity in 2008–10 GSS has been affected by changes in reporting of race/ethnicity in the Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System (IPEDS). Starting in 2008 IPEDS respondents were asked to use a new race/ethnicity classification that included a category for two or more races (see http://nces.ed.gov/ipeds/reic/resource.asp) and separate reporting of Native Hawaiians and Other Pacific Islanders from Asians. New classification was optional in 2008 and 2009 IPEDS but mandatory in 2010 and may have contributed to significant increase in GSS reporting of "More than one race," not Hispanic.

SOURCE:National Science Foundation/National Center for Science and Engineering Statistics, NSF-NIH Survey of Graduate Students and Postdoctorates in Science and Engineering.

Table 2 Source Data: Excel file

Over the last decade S&E graduate enrollment grew at the same rate for U.S. citizens and permanent residents and for temporary visa holders, both increasing by 35% (table 2). However, among U.S. citizens and permanent resident graduate students, S&E enrollment for students in underrepresented minority groups, except for Native Hawaiian/Other Pacific Islanders, grew at a much higher rate than for whites not of Hispanic origin or Asians. Over the last decade S&E graduate enrollment by Hispanic/Latino students, American Indian/Alaska Native students, and black/African American students not of Hispanic origin grew by approximately 65%, 55%, and 50%, respectively.[3]

Enrollment Status

Full-time graduate student enrollment in S&E grew at a higher rate (approximately 40%) than part-time enrollment (approximately 20%) between 2000 and 2010. The number of FTFT S&E graduate students went up by approximately 50% over the decade, increasing annually except for a brief period of decline in 2004–05, which was primarily driven by the mid-decade dip in engineering enrollment (figure 1). Annual growth in FTFT S&E graduate enrollment slowed in 2010 to its lowest level since 2004–05. This slowdown in growth between 2009 and 2010 was more evident in science programs than in engineering programs (1.7% versus 4.0%). In comparison, growth in S&E graduate enrollment was much larger in 2007–08 (7.6% in science versus 8.2% in engineering) and 2008–09 (6.4% in science versus 6.2% in engineering).

Postdoctoral Appointees in S&E

A total of 44,051 S&E postdocs were reported in 2010, an 8.0% increase over 2009 and an approximately 45% increase over 2000 (table 3). The growth of postdocs in engineering (approximately 110%) outpaced that of postdocs in science (approximately 40%) over the last decade. Although most S&E postdocs (84.2%) in 2010 are still in science, the proportion has steadily declined from a high of 89.6% in 2001.

TABLE 3. Postdoctoral appointees in science, engineering, and health fields by sex, citizenship, and field: 2000–10
% change
Characteristic 2000 2001 2002 2003 2004 2005 2006 2007
olda
2007
newa
2008 2009 2010b 2000
–10c
2009
–10
All survey fields 43,115 43,311 45,034 46,728 47,240 48,555 49,343 50,712 50,840 54,164 57,805 63,415 45 9.7
Science and engineering 30,224 30,196 31,937 33,666 34,065 34,456 34,887 35,894 36,223 38,203 40,804 44,051 45 8.0
Male 21,296 20,941 21,807 22,882 23,080 23,227 23,361 24,412 24,631 25,119 26,647 28,752 35 7.9
Female 8,928 9,255 10,130 10,784 10,985 11,229 11,526 11,482 11,592 13,084 14,157 15,299 70 8.1
U.S. citizens and permanent residents 12,627 12,073 13,524 13,542 13,969 14,078 14,111 14,903 15,107 16,274 18,175 20,419 60 12.3
Temporary visa holders 17,597 18,123 18,413 20,124 20,096 20,378 20,776 20,991 21,116 21,929 22,629 23,632 35 4.4
Science 26,911 27,044 28,371 29,856 30,116 30,290 30,245 30,986 31,281 32,741 34,388 37,095 40 7.9
Agricultural sciences 822 833 963 1,054 959 1,007 927 948 985 1,147 1,083 1,195 45 10.3
Biological sciences 16,734 17,032 17,640 18,625 18,716 18,747 18,807 19,218 19,109 19,827 20,159 21,537 30 6.8
Computer sciences 344 336 356 355 384 406 467 516 456 493 594 748 115 25.9
Earth, atmospheric, and
ocean sciences
1,155 1,049 1,129 1,182 1,263 1,364 1,495 1,322 1,250 1,339 1,424 1,760 50 23.6
Mathematical sciences 385 353 395 449 468 500 579 621 624 723 737 756 95 2.6
Physical sciences 6,270 6,223 6,619 6,829 7,059 7,011 6,703 6,760 6,719 6,885 7,447 7,703 25 3.4
Psychology 730 809 815 960 902 884 873 1,106 1,088 1,077 1,219 1,077 50 -11.6
Social sciences 471 409 454 402 365 371 394 495 483 508 561 646 35 15.2
Other sciencesa,d ne ne ne ne ne ne ne ne 567 742 1,164 1,673 - 43.7
Engineering 3,313 3,152 3,566 3,810 3,949 4,166 4,642 4,908 4,942 5,462 6,416 6,956 110 8.4
Aerospace engineering 111 128 140 141 141 153 165 178 178 154 168 191 70 13.7
Architecturea ne ne ne ne ne ne ne ne 5 11 22 10 -   -54.5
Biomedical engineering 220 262 284 388 425 477 591 640 640 710 960 1,036 370 7.9
Chemical engineering 703 574 758 686 689 702 735 758 790 880 1,084 1,092 55 0.7
Civil engineeringa 295 268 342 300 313 384 458 419 417 465 535 570 95 6.5
Electrical engineering 525 436 613 646 654 689 721 885 884 987 1,025 1,097 110 7.0
Industrial engineering 48 21 43 45 50 51 51 73 71 115 109 163 240 49.5
Mechanical engineering 480 501 441 543 514 562 644 725 722 784 948 1,009 110 6.4
Metallurgical/materials engineering 507 479 507 539 567 578 571 555 564 605 758 835 65 10.2
Other engineering 424 483 438 522 596 570 706 675 671 751 807 953 125 18.1
Health 12,891 13,115 13,097 13,062 13,175 14,099 14,456 14,818 14,617 15,961 17,001 19,364 50 13.9
Clinical medicinea,e 11,555 11,663 11,582 11,445 11,477 12,323 12,584 12,805 12,472 13,837 14,601 16,610 45 13.8
Other health 1,336 1,452 1,515 1,617 1,698 1,776 1,872 2,013 2,145 2,124 2,400 2,754 105 14.8

ne = not eligible; data were not collected for this field before 2007. - = not calculable.

a In 2007 survey was redesigned and five fields were added or reclassified to improve reporting. 2007new shows data as collected in 2007; 2007old shows data as they would have been collected in prior years. Due to methodological changes, counts should be used with caution for trend analysis. See http://www.nsf.gov/statistics/nsf10307/ for more detail.

b In 2010 postdoc section of survey was expanded and significant effort was made to ensure that appropriate personnel were providing postdoc data (see http://www.nsf.gov/statistics/gradpostdoc/ for more detail). As a result, it is unclear how much of increase reported in 2010 represents growth in postdoctoral appointments and how much results from improved data collection. More information will be forthcoming on improved data collection and changes in postdoc data.

c "% change 2000–10" shows growth from 2000 to 2010 and is rounded to nearest 5% to reflect potential imprecision of this estimate due to methodological changes in 2007.

d Includes communication, family and consumer sciences/human sciences, neuroscience, and multidisciplinary/interdisciplinary studies. These fields were added in 2007, although some programs reported within them had been reported prior to 2007 within other fields.

e Includes postdoctoral appointees in anesthesiology, cardiology, endocrinology, gastroenterology, hematology, neurology, obstetrics/gynecology, oncology/cancer research, ophthalmology, otorhinolaryngology, pediatrics, preventive medicine/community health, psychiatry, pulmonary disease, radiology, surgery, and clinical medicine, not elsewhere classified.

SOURCE: National Science Foundation/National Center for Science and Engineering Statistics, NSF-NIH Survey of Graduate Students and Postdoctorates in Science and Engineering.

Table 3 Source Data: Excel file

As in the graduate student enrollment, biomedical engineering was the fastest growing postdoctoral field between 2000 and 2010, measuring an increase of approximately 370%.

Over the last decade the number of female postdocs grew approximately twice as fast as the number of male postdocs, narrowing the gender gap in S&E postdoctoral appointments. Among the postdocs in S&E fields, women appointees increased by approximately 70%, growing from approximately 8,900 in 2000 to approximately 15,300 in 2010 (table 3). Women accounted for 34.7% of all S&E postdocs in 2010, compared with 29.5% of all S&E postdocs in 2000.

The share of foreign postdocs in S&E continued its 5-year decline in 2010 as growth of postdocs among U.S. citizens and permanent residents (12.3%) outpaced that of postdocs among temporary visa holders (4.4%). From 2000 to 2006 the proportion of postdocs on temporary visas was relatively steady and averaged 59.1%. In 2010, 53.6% of all postdocs held temporary visas.

Data Sources and Limitations

This publication provides the first release of data from the fall 2010 cycle of the GSS, which collected data from 13,711 organizational units (departments, programs, affiliated research centers, and health care facilities) at 574 institutions of higher education and their affiliates in the United States, Puerto Rico, and Guam. The institutional response rate was 99.3%. An overview of the survey objectives and design can be found at http://www.nsf.gov/statistics/srvygradpostdoc/.

The GSS collects data on graduate students, postdocs, and other doctorate-holding non-faculty researchers in research-oriented SEH fields. Practitioner-oriented degrees within these fields (e.g., master's degrees in nursing and physical therapy) are not eligible for the GSS. Declines in psychology and other health fields in 2008–10 are likely due to more rigorous follow-up with institutions regarding the exclusion of practitioner-oriented graduate degree programs. These decreases may not reflect changes in actual enrollments, and care should be used when examining long-term trends.

In 2010 the postdoc section of the survey was expanded and significant effort was made to ensure that appropriate personnel were providing postdoc data (see http://www.nsf.gov/statistics/srvygradpostdoc/ for more information). As a result, it is unclear how much of the increase reported in 2010 represents growth in postdoctoral appointments and how much results from improved data collection. More information on the improved data collection and changes in postdoc data will be released in a forthcoming InfoBrief, which will be available at http://www.nsf.gov/statistics/gradpostdoc/.

The full set of detailed statistical tables from this survey will be available in the forthcoming report Graduate Students and Postdoctorates in Science and Engineering: Fall 2010 at http://www.nsf.gov/statistics/gradpostdoc/. Individual detailed tables may be available upon request in advance of the full report by contacting the author.

Due to methodological changes in 2007, the data collected from 2007 through 2010 are not strictly comparable to those collected prior to 2007. As a result, care should be used when assessing trends within the GSS data. In this InfoBrief, "2007new" reports the data as collected in 2007 and "2007old" provides data as they would have been collected in 2006. Ten-year trends reported in the tables are labeled "% change 2000–10." Note that these percentages are rounded to the nearest 5% to reflect the extra variability in the estimate that may have resulted from the methodological changes that occurred in 2007. Please see appendix A, "Technical Notes," in Graduate Students and Postdoctorates in Science and Engineering: Fall 2007 (NSF 10-307) for a more detailed discussion of these changes.

Notes

[1]  Kelly H. Kang, Human Resources Statistics Program, National Center for Science and Engineering Statistics, National Science Foundation, 4201 Wilson Boulevard, Suite 965, Arlington, VA 22230 (kkang@nsf.gov; 703-292-7796).

[2]  The data on health fields collected in GSS are selected by NIH. These fields make up about one-third of all health fields in the U.S. Department of Education Classification of Instructional Programs taxonomy. NIH information on trends seen within these selected health fields can be found at http://www.report.nih.gov/nihdatabook/.

[3]  Reporting of race/ethnicity in the 2008–10 GSS has been affected by changes in the reporting of race/ethnicity in the Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System (IPEDS). Starting in 2008 IPEDS respondents were asked to use a new race/ethnicity classification that included a category for two or more races (see http://nces.ed.gov/ipeds/reic/resource.asp) and a separate reporting of Native Hawaiians and Other Pacific Islanders from Asians. The new classification was optional in 2008 and 2009 IPEDS but mandatory in 2010 and may have contributed to the significant increase in GSS for More than one race, not Hispanic.

National Science Foundation, National Center for Science and Engineering Statistics
Graduate Enrollment in Science and Engineering Grew Substantially in the Past Decade but Slowed in 2010
Arlington, VA (NSF 12-317) [May 2012]


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