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Frontiers
S&E Graduate Students: More Women Enroll

November 1996

Women's enrollment in graduate science and engineering (S&E) programs grew rapidly in 1994, even as overall enrollment declined slightly, according to a recent data brief by the Science Resources Studies Division.

The study found that overall graduate student enrollment in S&E fields reached 433,152 students, a 1% drop from its high of 436,436 in 1993. At the same time, women's enrollment jumped from 156,871 in 1993 to 159,659 in 1994.

"Since 1983, women's enrollment has been increasing rapidly," writes Survey Information Specialist Dottie Jacobs, author of the report. "In 1983, only 31% of S&E graduate students were women, whereas by 1994, 37% were."

In addition, the study found that the enrollment of S&E minority students with U.S. citizenship increased slightly--going from 18.8% in 1983 to 22.2% in 1994. Most of the change was due to the increased enrollment of Asians and Pacific Islanders who had 3.4% of the enrollment in 1983 and 8% in 1994. In the category labeled black Americans and black permanent residents, Jacobs found that the enrollment increased slightly, from 4% in 1983 to 5% in 1994.

In addition, fields of study in science have also shifted, the data brief announces. "Physical and computer sciences enrollment each decreased in both 1993 and 1994, as did mathematics," Jacobs writes. Physical sciences went from 35,318 students in 1993 to 34,484 students in 1994. Computer and mathematical sciences moved from 36,114 to 33,973 students over the same time period.

While these decreases were changes of only 1% and 2% respectively, they are notable as part of a two-year downward trend that follows a 14-year increase in these fields.

Small increases were noted in earth, atmospheric, and ocean sciences; agricultural, biological, and social sciences; and psychology.

Engineering fields also experienced significant decreases. Aerospace, electrical, industrial, mechanical, and materials engineering all saw decreases in enrollment. Only the fields of chemical and civil engineering had slight increases. "Civil engineering enrollment was up less than 1% in 1993 and 2% in 1994 after much larger increases in earlier years. Chemical engineering enrollment also increased in 1994, by 3%."

Jacobs prepared the data brief using information from the NSF/SRS Survey of Graduate Students and Postdoctorates in Science and Engineering.

For a copy of this data brief, call SRS at (703) 292-8774 or visit NSF's Web site: http://www.nsf.gov


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