Education Progress

What percentage of freshmen intend to major in an S&E field when they start college?

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What percentage of freshmen intend to major in an S&E field when they start college?

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Notes:
S&E = science and engineering. S&E includes biological/agricultural sciences, physical sciences, computer sciences, mathematics/statistics, engineering, psychology, and social sciences. Physical sciences = chemistry, physics, astronomy, and earth/ocean/atmospheric sciences.
Notes:
S&E = science and engineering. S&E includes biological/agricultural sciences, physical sciences, computer sciences, mathematics/statistics, engineering, psychology, and social sciences. Physical sciences = chemistry, physics, astronomy, and earth/ocean/atmospheric sciences.

Main Finding

Since the data were first collected in 1972, a third or more of first-time freshmen at 4-year institutions have planned on majoring in S&E. The percentage of freshmen with S&E intentions shows a notable increase for both men and women beginning in 2008.

Asians are more likely than freshmen of other race/ethnicities to intend to major in S&E when they enter undergraduate school.

Key Observations

  • For the 35-year period from 1972 to 2007, about a third of all first-time freshmen at 4-year institutions planned to major in S&E when they started college. Since 2007, the proportion rose gradually to 38% in 2010.
  • Men have been more likely than women to plan an S&E major as freshmen; this is the case in every racial/ethnic group.
  • Overall, the percentage of male freshmen intending to major in S&E increased from 39% in 1995 to 44% in 2010, compared to an increase from 27% to 33% among female freshmen.
  • In 2010, nearly half (49%) of Asian first-time freshmen intended to major in S&E. The second highest percentage was among Hispanics (41%), followed by whites and blacks (37% each) and American Indians/Alaska Natives (28%).
  • Over the period 1995–2010, the percentage of first-time freshmen expecting to major in S&E varied by only 7–11 points within racial/ethnic group. There was a notable increase among Asians, Hispanics, and whites in 2008, and among blacks in 2009. Among American Indians/Alaska Natives, intentions to major in S&E peaked in 2007 (36% of freshmen) and then decreased.