Education Progress

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

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

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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:
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 master's degrees awarded in S&E fields rose from 96,230 in 2000 to 139,926 in 2010, an increase of 45%. The pattern of growth is similar for women and men.

In 2010, 139,926 master’s degrees were awarded in S&E fields. U.S. citizens and permanent residents earned more than 7 in 10 of these degrees, while students on temporary visas received about 3 in 10. Over the past decade, the number of S&E master’s degrees has increased for both citizenship groups, and has increased in every racial/ethnic group among U.S. citizens and permanent residents.

Key Observations

  • Women earned 63,660 S&E master’s degrees in 2010, compared to 76,266 degrees for men. Although their share of S&E master’s degrees rose from 43% in 2000 to 45% in 2010, women remain somewhat underrepresented relative to their percentage of the U.S. college-age population (49%).
  • Women have increased their number and share of master's degrees in most S&E fields, although there is notable variation by field. In 2010, they earned 4 of every 5 master's degrees awarded in psychology but only a little more than 1 in 5 engineering degrees.
  • Women earned a smaller majority of degrees in social, biological, agricultural, and ocean sciences. In addition, they received nearly half (49%) of all chemistry degrees awarded at the master’s level – on a par with their proportion in the U.S. college population.
  • Compared to their proportion in the college-age population, women remain underrepresented in computer sciences, mathematics/statistics, astronomy, physics, atmospheric sciences, earth sciences, and engineering among master’s degree recipients.
  • In 2010, whites earned 62,633 S&E master’s degrees, followed by blacks with 10,292 degrees, Asians/Pacific Islanders with 9,959, Hispanics with 7,379, and American Indians/Alaska Natives with 629.
  • Although the number of S&E master’s degrees awarded to whites grew over the decade, whites’ share of degrees decreased from 70% in 2000 to 60% in 2010 as the shares for blacks and Hispanics increased.
  • Blacks’ share of all S&E master’s degrees awarded to U.S. citizens and permanent residents increased from 8% in 2000 to 10% in 2010; Hispanics’ share increased from 5% to 7%, and American Indians/Alaska Natives’ share increased from 0.5% to 0.6%. The share for Asian/Pacific Islander recipients remained stable throughout the decade at 10%.
  • Despite the increased shares for blacks, Hispanics, and American Indians/Alaska Natives, these groups remain underrepresented among S&E master’s degree recipients relative to their proportions in the U.S. college-age population: blacks 14%, Hispanics 20%, American Indians/Alaska Natives 0.9%.
  • Both Asians/Pacific Islanders and whites are overrepresented among S&E master’s degree recipients compared to their proportions in the U.S. college-age population – 5% and 57%, respectively.