Graduate education in S&E contributes to global competitiveness, producing the highly skilled workers of the future and the research needed for a knowledge-based economy. In 2009, the Council of Graduate Schools and the Educational Testing Service formed a joint commission to investigate how graduate education can meet the challenges of the 21st century (see sidebar "The Path Forward: The Future of Graduate Education in the United States").
This section includes indicators related to graduate enrollment, recent trends in the number of earned degrees in S&E fields, and participation by women, minorities, and foreign students in graduate education in U.S. academic institutions.
There were 611,600 S&E graduate students enrolled in the United States in fall 2009; 48% of them were women (appendix table
In 2009, underrepresented minority students (blacks, Hispanics, and American Indians/Alaska Natives) accounted for 12% of students enrolled in graduate S&E programs (appendix table
Enrollment in engineering has been rising steadily in the last 20 years; the number of full-time engineering students reached a new peak of 114,600 in 2009 (figure
In 2009, approximately 130,000 full-time students were enrolled for the first time in S&E graduate programs—23% in engineering, 49% in the natural sciences, and 27% in the social and behavioral sciences (appendix table
In 2009, 168,900 foreign students were enrolled in S&E graduate programs (appendix table
According to data collected by the Institute of International Education (IIE 2010), the overall number of foreign graduate students in all fields increased 4% from academic year 2008–09 to 2009–10. The number of new foreign graduate students declined slightly. India, China, South Korea, Taiwan, and Canada were the top countries/economies of origin for foreign graduate students.
More recent data from the Bureau of Citizenship and Immigration Services show a continuing increase in foreign graduate students from November 2009 to November 2010, with all of the increase occurring in S&E fields (table
In some fields, such as engineering and geology, a master's degree is often the terminal degree for students. In other fields, master's degrees are a step toward doctoral degrees. Professional master's degree programs, which stress interdisciplinary training, are a relatively new direction in graduate education (for details on professional science master's degrees, see NSB 2010, page 2–22).
Master's degrees awarded in S&E fields increased from 96,200 in 2000 to about 120,900 in 2005, remained fairly consistent through 2007, but increased 12% in the years 2008–09 (appendix table
The number of S&E master's degrees earned by both men and women rose between 2000 and 2009, but the number for women grew slightly faster (figure
Women's share of S&E master's degrees varies by field. As with bachelor's degrees, in 2009, women earned a majority of master's degrees in psychology, biological sciences, social sciences, and agricultural sciences and a smaller share of master's degrees in engineering. Women's share of master's degrees in engineering in 2009, however, was slightly higher than their share in 2000 (appendix table
The proportion of master's degrees in S&E fields earned by U.S. citizens and permanent residents from underrepresented racial and ethnic minorities increased slightly over the 10 years studied. Blacks accounted for 10% of master's degree recipients in 2009, up from 8% in 2000, Hispanics from 5% in 2000 to 7% in 2009, and American Indians/Alaska Natives from 0.5% to 0.6%. The proportion of Asian/Pacific Islander recipients remained flat in this period.
The percentage of S&E master's degrees earned by white students fell from 52% in 2000 to 45% in 2009, as the percentage of degrees earned by blacks, Hispanics, and temporary residents increased. The proportion of S&E master's degrees with other/unknown race increased from 5% to 9% between 2000 and 2009 (appendix table
Foreign students make up a much higher proportion of S&E master's degree recipients than of bachelor's or associate's degree recipients. In 2009, foreign students earned 27% of S&E master's degrees. Their degrees were heavily concentrated in computer sciences, economics, and engineering, where they earned 46%, 45%, and 43%, respectively, of all master's degrees awarded in 2009 (appendix table
The number of S&E master's degrees awarded to students on temporary visas reached its highest point in the decade in 2009 (36,000), after a sharp decline between 2004 and 2007. Most of the drop during this time period was accounted for by decreases of temporary residents in the computer sciences and engineering fields, both of which rebounded by about one-third in the following 2 years.
Doctoral education in the United States prepares a new generation of faculty and researchers in academia, as well as a highly skilled workforce for other sectors of the economy. It also generates new knowledge important for the society as a whole and for U.S. competitiveness in a global knowledge-based economy. Over the years, numerous attempts have been made to measure the quality of doctoral education in the United States (Berelson 1960; Cartter 1966; NRC 1982; NRC 1995; Roose and Andersen 1970). For information on the latest assessment, see sidebar "The National Research Council Ratings: Measuring Scholarly Quality of Doctoral Programs."
The number of S&E doctorates conferred annually by U.S. universities increased rapidly between 2003 and 2007, but growth slowed in 2008, and the number declined slightly to 41,100 in 2009 (appendix table
The time required to earn a doctoral degree and the success rates of those entering doctoral programs are concerns for those pursuing a degree, the universities awarding the degree, and the agencies and organizations funding graduate study. Longer times to degree mean lost earnings and a higher risk of attrition. Time to degree (as measured by time from graduate school entry to doctorate receipt) increased through the mid-1990s but has since decreased in all S&E fields from 7.7 to 7.0 years (appendix table
Between 1995 and 2009, time to degree for doctorate recipients decreased in each of the Carnegie types of academic institutions awarding doctoral degrees (see sidebar "Carnegie Classification of Academic Institutions"). Time to degree was shortest at research universities with very high research activity (6.9 years in 2009, down from 7.7 years in 1995). Doctorate recipients at medical schools also finished quickly (6.8 years in 2009). Time to degree was longer at universities less-strongly oriented toward research (table
Among U.S. citizens and permanent residents, the proportion of S&E doctoral degrees earned by women grew consistently between 2000 and 2007 (from 45% to 55%), but decreased slightly in 2008 and 2009 (appendix table
The number of S&E doctoral degrees earned by women grew faster than that of men. The number of U.S. citizen and permanent resident women earning doctorates in S&E increased from 8,700 in 2000 to 15,000 in 2009, while the number earned by men increased from 10,700 to 12,800 in the same time interval (appendix table
The number and proportion of doctoral degrees in S&E fields earned by underrepresented minorities increased between 2000 and 2009. In 2009, blacks earned 1,451, Hispanics earned 1,335, and American Indians/Alaska Natives earned 154—accounting for 7% of all S&E doctoral degrees earned that year, up from 6% in 2000 (appendix table
The number of S&E doctorates earned by white U.S. citizens and permanent residents increased between 2000 and 2009. The number of S&E doctoral degrees earned by white U.S. citizen and permanent resident men declined through 2003, then gradually increased (figure
Temporary residents earned approximately 13,400 S&E doctorates in 2009, up from 8,500 in 2000. Foreign students on temporary visas earned a larger proportion of doctoral degrees than master's, bachelor's, or associate's degrees (appendix tables
The top 10 foreign countries/economies of origin of foreign S&E doctorate recipients together accounted for 67% of all foreign recipients of U.S. S&E doctoral degrees from 1989 to 2009 (table
Asia. From 1989 to 2009, students from four Asian countries/economies (China, India, South Korea, and Taiwan) earned more than half of U.S. S&E doctoral degrees awarded to foreign students (122,200 of 223,200)—almost 4 times more than students from Europe (30,000). Most of these degrees were awarded in engineering, biological sciences, and physical sciences (table
Students from China earned the largest number of U.S. S&E doctorates awarded to foreign students during the 1989–2009 period (57,700), followed by those from India (24,800), South Korea (21,800), and Taiwan (17,800) (table
Europe. European students earned far fewer U.S. S&E doctorates than Asian students between 1989 and 2009, and they tended to focus less on engineering than did their Asian counterparts (tables
The number of Central and Eastern European students earning S&E doctorates at U.S. universities increased from 74 in 1989 to more than 800 in 2009, approaching the number of those from Western Europe (figure
North America. Despite the proximity of Canada and Mexico to the United States, the shares of U.S. S&E doctoral degrees awarded to residents of these countries were small compared with those awarded to students from Asia and Europe. The number of U.S. S&E degrees earned by students from Canada doubled between 1989 and 2009, from about 240 to nearly 500. The number of doctoral degree recipients from Mexico increased through 2003, but has generally remained stable since then. In 2009, 193 S&E doctorate recipients from Mexico earned their degree in the United States (figure