Education Progress

Who earns bachelor’s degrees in science and engineering?

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Who earns bachelor’s degrees in science and engineering?

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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.
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.
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

Throughout the 2000s, about one-third of all bachelor’s degrees conferred by U.S. colleges and universities were in S&E fields. The number of S&E bachelor's degrees awarded annually rose steadily from 398,602 in 2000 to 525,374 in 2010. Women received a slim majority of these degrees in every year.

Women have earned about 57% of all bachelor’s degrees and half of all S&E bachelor's degrees since the late 1990s. These percentages are larger than women’s 49% share of the U.S. college-age population in 2010. Women tend to study different fields than men.

The racial/ethnic composition of S&E bachelor's degree recipients has changed over time, reflecting population changes and increasing college attendance by members of minority groups.

In 2010, whites received 62–71% of the bachelor’s degrees conferred in the major S&E fields. The minority group receiving the next largest share varied by field.

Key Observations

  • The number of S&E bachelor’s degrees awarded to women rose from 200,952 in 2000 to 264,283 in 2010. The number of S&E bachelor’s degrees earned by men over this period increased from 197,650 to 261,091.
  • Between 2000 and 2010, the annual number of S&E bachelor’s degrees increased by 32% for both women and men.
  • In 2010, women earned more than three-fourths of all bachelor's degrees awarded in psychology (77%) and more than half of the degrees in biological/agricultural sciences (58%) and social sciences (54%).
  • Although women accounted for only 41% of the bachelor’s degrees in the broad field of physical sciences in 2010, they earned half of the degrees in the subfield of chemistry.
  • With minor fluctuations, women earned about the same proportions of bachelor’s degrees in physical sciences, biological/agricultural sciences, psychology, and social sciences throughout the last decade.
  • Over the last decade, the percentage of S&E bachelor's degrees awarded to women declined in engineering, mathematics/statistics, and most notably, computer sciences (from 28% in 2000 to 18% in 2010).
  • Women are overrepresented, compared to their 49% share of the U.S. college-age population in 2010, among recipients of bachelor’s degrees in psychology, biological/agricultural sciences, and social sciences. They remain underrepresented in engineering, mathematics/statisics, computer sciences, and physical sciences other than chemistry.
  • Although the number of S&E bachelor’s degrees earned by whites increased during the 2000s, whites’ share of degrees declined from 71% in 2000 to 64% in 2010.
  • Hispanics and Asians/Pacific Islanders increased their shares of S&E bachelor’s degrees between 2000 and 2010. Hispanics’ share rose from 7% to 9%, and Asians/Pacific Islanders’ share rose from 9% to 10%.
  • The percentages of S&E bachelor’s degrees earned by blacks and American Indians/Alaska Natives remained flat over the decade.
  • Whites and Asians/Pacific Islanders are overrepresented among S&E bachelor’s degrees recipients relative to their proportions in the U.S. college-age population in 2010 (57% and 5%, respectively). Blacks, Hispanics, and American Indians/Alaska Natives remain underrepresented in S&E bachelor’s degrees compared to their shares of the population (14%, 20%, and 0.9%, respectively).
  • Asians/Pacific Islanders earned more bachelor’s degrees in biological/agricultural sciences (14%), engineering (12%), mathematics/statistics (10%), and physical sciences (10%) than any other minority group in 2010.
  • Blacks accounted for the second largest share of bachelor’s degrees in psychology (12%) and computer sciences (11%).
  • Hispanics earned more bachelor’s degrees in psychology (11%) than in any other S&E field, for the third largest share of the field. They outnumbered blacks by a small margin in social sciences to account for the second largest share of bachelor’s degrees in that field. Both groups received more than 10% of all social science degrees awarded in 2010.
  • American Indians/Alaska Natives earned more bachelor’s degrees in social sciences and psychology than in other S&E fields. Their share of degrees in each S&E field was less than 1%.
  • Whites received their largest shares of S&E bachelor’s degrees in physical sciences and mathematics/statistics (71% each) and in engineering (69%).
  • In every major S&E field at the bachelor’s level, whites and Asians/Pacific Islanders are overrepresented relative to their proportions in the U.S. college-age population in 2010 (57% and 5%, respectively). Blacks, Hispanics, and American Indians/Alaska Natives remain underrepresented in every S&E field compared to their shares of the population (14%, 20%, and 0.9%, respectively).