Education Progress

Who earns S&E associate’s degrees in the United States?

Feature Image

Who earns S&E associate’s degrees in the United States?

Explore the Data

Mail Icon Table Icon Picture Icon Help Icon
Mail Icon Table Icon Picture Icon Help Icon
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:
Racial/ethnic groups include U.S. citizens and permanent residents only; they do not include foreign nationals with temporary visas.
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

The total number of associate’s degrees awarded in S&E fields increased from 38,434 in 2000 to 62,805 in 2003, decreased every year through 2007, and then increased again to reach 62,211 degrees in 2010. The pattern was similar for men and women. Men earned more S&E associate’s degrees than women in every year.

The number of S&E associate’s degrees awarded to U.S. citizens and permanent residents rose from 37,585 degrees in 2000 to a decade high of 61,190 in 2003. The number then declined every year from 2004 to 2007 before rising again to reach 60,911 degrees in 2010. The pattern of increases and decreases was similar for whites, blacks, Hispanics, and Asians/Pacific Islanders.

Key Observations

  • The number of S&E associate’s degrees earned by women grew from 18,333 in 2000 to 24,679 in 2003, declined to 18,416 by 2007, and then rose again to attain a new high of 25,743 degrees earned in 2010.
  • Men’s number of S&E associate’s degrees increased from 20,101 in 2000 to 38,126 in 2003, declined to 29,069 in 2007, and then rose again to reach a new high of 36,468 degrees earned in 2010.
  • The largest growth in S&E associate’s degrees awarded to men occurred at the beginning of the decade: a 90% increase between 2000 and 2003 vs. a 35% increase for women during that period.
  • For women, the largest growth in S&E associate’s degrees earned was at the end of the decade: a 40% increase between 2007 and 2010 vs. a 25% increase for men during that period. However, women’s share of all S&E associate’s degrees decreased slightly over the decade, from 48% in 2000 to 47% in 2010. Women are somewhat underrepresented among recipients of S&E associate’s degrees relative to their 49% share of the U.S. college-age population in 2010.
  • 2003 was the peak year for S&E associate’s degrees earned by whites (37,939), blacks (8,198), and Asians/Pacific Islanders (4,075). After a 4-year decline, each group began earning more S&E associate’s degrees in 2008. In 2010, whites received 34,712 degrees, blacks 7,816 degrees, and Asians/Pacific Islanders 3,706 degrees.
  • Hispanics and American Indians/Alaska Natives were the only groups to receive more S&E associate’s degrees at the end of the decade than in any other year. Hispanics earned 7,157 degrees in 2009 and 8,412 degrees in 2010, compared to their previous high of 6,994 degrees in 2003.
  • The number of S&E associate’s degrees earned by American Indians/Alaska Natives increased from 608 degrees in 2000 to 909 degrees in 2010. The number increased by a third between 2000 and 2003, and then rose more gradually during the remainder of the decade.
  • Asians/Pacific Islanders and American Indians/Alaska Natives are overrepresented among recipients of S&E associate’s degrees relative to their proportions in the U.S. college-age population in 2010 (5% and 0.9%, respectively), and whites are on a par with their 57% share of the population. Blacks and Hispanics remain underrepresented compared to their proportions in the population (14% and 20%, respectively).