Bachelor's and Master's Degree Data

This publication uses data from the Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System (IPEDS) Completions Survey to report numbers of bachelor's and master's degrees. The Completions Survey, conducted by the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES), U.S. Department of Education, collects data annually on all degrees conferred between 1 July of one year and 30 June of the following year from the universe of accredited institutions of higher education in the 50 states, the District of Columbia, and the U.S. territories and outlying areas. Institutional representatives submit data to the IPEDS online collection system. The survey is mandatory for all institutions that participate in or are applicants for participation in any federal financial assistance program authorized by Title IV of the Higher Education Act of 1965, as amended. Data are collected according to sex of recipient and field of study. For more information on IPEDS, see http://nces.ed.gov/IPEDS/about/.

For each year from 1966 to 2012, institutional response rates to the IPEDS Completions Survey have exceeded 99%. Imputations for nonresponse were based on the previous year's response for an institution. The percentage of bachelor's and master's degrees imputed rounds to zero.

Because the data in this report include those for institutions in the U.S. territories, they may differ from numbers published by NCES that relate to the 50 states and the District of Columbia and their field-of-study groupings. Data on degrees by field of study were collected according to the NCES Classification of Instructional Programs (CIP) (see appendix B). Information on CIP is available at http://nces.ed.gov/ipeds/cipcode/default.aspx?y=55.

Through 1995, IPEDS reports were concerned primarily with the subset of postsecondary institutions that were accredited at the college level by an agency recognized by the U.S. Department of Education. The National Science Foundation (NSF) presented counts of bachelor's and master's degrees from this same subset of institutions in its reports on science and engineering (S&E) degrees (S&E Degrees). Beginning with 1996 data, NCES categorized the postsecondary institutional universe on the basis of degree-granting status as well as eligibility for Title IV federal financial aid (based on a list of eligible institutions maintained by the Department of Education's Office of Postsecondary Education). This change expanded the types of institutions whose data appear in NCES reports to include for-profit and online institutions. NSF chose to retain the earlier, less inclusive institutional coverage criterion for the data in its S&E Degrees report. As a result, beginning with the 1966–96 edition, the counts of bachelor's and master's degrees presented in S&E Degrees reports diverged from the degree counts reported by IPEDS. Beginning with the 1966–2008 edition, the S&E Degrees report adopted the more inclusive institutional coverage of the IPEDS reports, and the counts of bachelor's and master's degrees from 2000 forward are now based on the larger set of institutions. (Given field classification issues, the change in institutional coverage was not extended all the way back to the original divergence in 1996.) Consequently, the counts of bachelor's and master's degrees for 2000–06 appearing in the present edition of the S&E Degrees report differ from the degree counts for those years reported in the 1966–2000, 1966–2001, 1966–2004, and 1966–2006 editions of the S&E Degrees report. Also, due to given concerns about data quality, detailed national data were not released by NCES for the academic year ending 1999, and so bachelor's and master's degree data for those years are missing from all tables.

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Doctoral Degree Data

Data on doctoral degrees were derived from the Survey of Earned Doctorates (SED), funded jointly by NSF, the National Institutes of Health, the U.S. Department of Education, the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, and the National Endowment for the Humanities.

The SED is a voluntary survey that collects information annually for the period from 1 July of one year through 30 June of the following year from all persons who have fulfilled the requirements for a research doctorate at an accredited U.S. institution. A research doctorate is a doctoral degree that (1) requires the completion of an original intellectual contribution in the form of a dissertation or an equivalent project of work (e.g., musical composition), and (2) is not primarily intended for the practice of a profession. Doctoral degrees (e.g., the PhD, DSc, and research EdD) are included in this survey; professional doctoral degrees (e.g., the MD, JD, DDS, PsyD, and DMin) are not. The Completions Survey collects data on professional doctoral degrees (called "doctorate degree–professional practice") as well as research doctoral degrees. The Completions Survey reported that nearly 108,000 professional doctoral degrees were awarded in 2012, of which only 1,455 were awarded in S&E fields.

SED data were preferred over Completions Survey data for doctoral degrees because the self-reported data provided by individual doctorate recipients are more specific with respect to the field of specialization. SED field-of-study data are not collected using the CIP field classification scheme. See appendix B for a crosswalk between the CIP codes used to classify bachelor's and master's degree fields and for the corresponding SED field codes used by SED respondents to self-report their doctoral degree field.

The SED survey forms are sent to all accredited U.S. doctorate-granting institutions for distribution by the graduate deans (or institutional contacts) to all research doctorate recipients as they complete degree requirements. The survey collects demographic data, such as the student's sex, citizenship, and racial or ethnic group; educational history, including field of degree; sources of graduate student support; employment status during the year preceding receipt of the doctorate; postgraduation plans; and background on parents' education.

Approximately 92% of doctorate recipients complete the survey each year. For nonrespondents, commencement programs, graduation lists, and other similar public records allow construction of partial records—limited to field of study, year of doctorate, doctoral institution, and sex—which then are added to the data file. Consequently, for the variables used in this report, there is complete coverage of doctoral field of study and almost complete coverage of sex. (Item response rates annually exceed 99%.) Data are updated annually from completed survey forms submitted after the completion of the survey round; therefore, data on doctorates are subject to revision and may differ slightly from reports published earlier. For more information on the SED, see http://www.nsf.gov/statistics/doctorates/.

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Field Classification Schemes

Four field classification systems were used during the 1966–2012 period covered by this report: CIP 1985, 1990, 2000, and 2010. The current classification scheme, CIP 2010, is used for the Completions Survey; it and corresponding fields for the SED are provided in appendix B, "Classification of Fields of Study." Data for earlier years are presented as consistently as possible with the current classification scheme.

Note that the data in this report are grouped into the S&E field of degree categories of the NSF taxonomy. Data on engineering technology degrees and degrees in health and medical fields are not included in the S&E totals here. Therefore, data in this report may differ from those in reports published by the U.S. Department of Education which use a slightly different field of degree taxonomy. However, separate tables for engineering technology and for health and medical fields, as well as for first professional degrees, are included in this report.

Beginning with the 1966–2008 edition of the S&E Degrees report, the constituent fields of study reported in two social sciences fields and six engineering fields were changed. Consequently, the counts of degrees in the eight affected data tables differ from the counts reported in pre-2008 editions of this report, as explained in the following paragraphs.

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