Chapter 4
Graduate Degrees

Overview ^

Trends in attainment of masterís and doctoral degrees follow the same pattern seen with bachelorís degrees and graduate enrollment: That is, both the numbers and percentages of women and minorities earning masterís degrees and doctorates in science and engineering have increased over time. Detailed data on science and engineering graduate degrees earned by women are available from 1966 to 1996 for masterís degrees and from 1966 to 1997 for doctorates. For racial/ethnic groups, comparable annual data are only available as far back as 1989 for masterís degrees and 1975 for doctorates.[1]

Masterís degrees ^

The number of masterís degrees awarded in science and engineering between 1966 and 1996 more than doubled, increasing from 41,049 to 95,313, but account for a lower percentage of all masterís degrees. (See appendix table 4-1.) Science and engineering degrees accounted for 23 percent of all masterís degrees awarded in 1996, compared with 29 percent in 1966.

Women ^

In science and engineering fields, both the number of women earning masterís degrees and their proportion of the total have risen steadily over the past 30 years. In 1966, women earned 5,469 or 13 percent of the science and engineering masterís degrees awarded. (See appendix table 4-2.) By 1996, they earned 37,453, or 39 percent. In contrast, the numbers of masterís degrees earned by men in science and engineering remained relatively constant from the early 1970s through the early 1990s at around 50,000 degrees per year; this figure has risen only slightly since then. (See figure 4-1.)

Women earn a smaller percentage of masterís degrees than of bachelorís degrees awarded in science and engineering. In 1996, when women earned 39 percent of the masterís degrees awarded in science and engineering, they also received 47 percent of the bachelorís degrees in science and engineering. (See appendix tables 2-6 and 4-3.) By contrast, in non-science and -engineering fields, women earn about the same percentage of masterís degrees as they do of bachelorís degrees: Women received 59†percent of the bachelorís degrees and 61 percent of the masterís degrees awarded in non-science and -engineering fields in 1996. (See appendix tables 2-6 and 4-3.)

By field, women earned the highest percentage of science and engineering masterís degrees in psychology (72 percent), the social sciences (50 percent), and the biological/agricultural sciences (49 percent); they received their lowest percentage of masterís degrees in engineering (17 percent). (See appendix table 4-3.) Although the number and percentage of masterís degrees awarded to women in many of these fields have been increasing, this is not the case in the fields of mathematics and computer science, where their share of total masterís awards has changed little since the late 1980s.

A dissimilarity index was constructed to measure the amount of similarity or dissimilarity in the distributions of men and women by masterís degree field.[2] An examination of trends in the dissimilarity index shows that the masterís degree field distributions of men and women have become more similar over the past 30 years. In 1966, the dissimilarity index was 17.7, indicating that 17.7 percent of women would have to switch their masterís degree field to match the distribution of fields of male masterís degree recipients. (See appendix table 4-2.) By 1996, the dissimilarity index was 7.8. (See figure 4-2.)

Minorities (U.S. citizens and permanent residents only) ^

In 1996, 360,682 masterís degrees were awarded to U.S. citizens and permanent residents, 68,151ó19†percentóof them in science and engineering. (See appendix tables 4-4 and 4-5.) More than one-third of all masterís degrees awarded to Asians were in science and engineering in 1996. In contrast, 14 percent of all masterís degrees awarded to blacks and 18 percent of all masterís degrees awarded to whites, Hispanics, and American Indians were in science and engineering. (See text table 4-1.)

A dissimilarity index was constructed to measure the amount of similarity or dissimilarity in the distributions of racial/ethnic groups by masterís degree field.[3] The index is highest for Asiansó18.8 percent of Asians would have to switch their masterís degree field to match the field distribution of their white counterparts. (See appendix table 4-4.) The index is lowest for Hispanicsó1.5 percent would have to switch their masterís degree field to match the field distribution of white masterís degree recipients. The dissimilarity index was 2.9 for American Indian and 4.3 for black masterís degree recipients.

The number of masterís degrees in science and engineering awarded to all racial/ethnic groups increased in the 1990s. These gains occurred in degrees earned by both men and women. The percentages of masterís degrees earned by Asians, blacks, and Hispanics increased from 1989 to 1996. (See figure 4-3.)

Asians ^

Asians earned 5,942 masterís degrees in science and engineering in 1996, up from 4,100 in 1989. By 1996, Asians accounted for 9 percent of all science and engineering masterís degrees awarded, up from 7 percent in 1989. (See appendix table 4-6.) In contrast, they earned 4†percent of the masterís degrees awarded in 1996 in non-science and -engineering fields. Asians earned an increasing percentage of the masterís degrees in each major science and engineering field during this time period. In 1996óas has been the case since 1989óthe two fields in which Asians earned the largest proportions of science and engineering masterís degrees were computer science and engineering.

Blacks ^

Blacks earned 3,518 science and engineering masterís degrees in 1996 (5 percent of the total), up from 1,652 (3†percent) in 1989. (See appendix tables 4-4 and 4-6.) They earned 7 percent of the masterís degrees in non-science and -engineering fields.

The percentage of masterís degrees earned by blacks in each of the major science and engineering fields increased between 1989 and 1996, with the numbers of masterís degrees earned by blacks in some fields more than doubling over the 7-year period. Thus, in mathematics, masterís degrees awarded to blacks rose from 59 to 151; in the agricultural sciences, from 36 to 88; in the social sciences, from 407 to 965; and in psychology, from 395 to 947. Two fieldsóthe social sciences and psychologyóaccounted for 54 percent of the science and engineering masterís degrees earned by blacks. In comparison, 40 percent of the science and engineering masterís degrees earned by all U.S. citizens and permanent residents were in these fields.

Hispanics ^

Trends in masterís degrees earned by Hispanics were similar to those for blacks. Hispanics earned 2,730 science and engineering masterís degrees in 1996, 4 percent of the total earned by all U.S. citizens and permanent residents. (See appendix tables 4-4 and 4-6.) This was an increase from the 1,585 masterís degrees (3 percent) earned by Hispanics in 1989. Hispanics earned 4 percent of the masterís degrees awarded in non-science and -engineering fields in 1996. The percentage of masterís degrees earned by Hispanics in each of the major science and engineering fields increased between 1989 and 1996. As with blacks, the numbers of masterís degrees earned by Hispanics more than doubled in some fields over the 7-year period. In mathematics, the number of masterís degrees earned by Hispanics rose from 34 in 1989 to 91 in 1996; in psychology, the increase was from 360 to 709.

American Indians ^

American Indians earned 304 masterís degrees in science and engineering in 1996; this figure was up from 209 in 1989. (See appendix tables 4-4 and 4-6.) The overall percentage of science and engineering masterís degrees earned by American Indians was unchanged, however, remaining at 0.4 percent. American Indians earned 0.5†percent of non-science and -engineering masterís degrees in 1996.

The largest numbers of science and engineering degrees earned by American Indians were in the social sciences (97) and psychology (80). More than half (58†percent) of the science and engineering masterís degrees earned by American Indians in 1996 were in these two fields, compared with 40 percent of the science and engineering masterís degrees earned by all U.S. citizens and permanent residents.

Minority women (U.S. citizens and permanent residents only) ^

The numbers of masterís degrees in science and engineering awarded to women and to men in each racial/ethnic group increased during the 1989Ė96 period. (See appendix tables 4-7 and 4-8.) The increases during this time occurred in most major science and engineering fields, with the exceptions of computer science and the physical sciences. The numbers of masterís degrees in computer science dropped for white men and women and for American Indian men, stayed the same for American Indian women, and increased for all other groups. The numbers of masterís degrees in the physical sciences rose for women of all racial/ethnic groups, but dropped for all men except for blacks and Hispanics.

Women earned 41 percent of the masterís degrees awarded in science and engineering to U.S. citizens and permanent residents in 1996. Blacks were the only racial/ethnic group in which women earned more than half of the masterís degrees in science and engineering. Black women earned 56 percent of the masterís degrees in science and engineering to blacks in 1996. (See figure†4-4.)

Persons with disabilities ^

Data on masterís degree awards to persons with disabilities are not collected by the Federal Government. The National Science Foundation does not collect data on masterís degrees; the National Center for Education Statistics does collect data on the number of masterís degrees but not by measures of disability status. As noted in the previous chapter, data on disabilities are frequently not included in comprehensive institutional records. Therefore, enrollment and degree data collected from colleges and universities are not reported by disability status.

Doctorates ^

Awards in science and engineering accounted for 63†percent of all doctoral degrees in 1997. The number of doctoral degrees in science and engineering more than doubled between 1966 and 1997, rising from 11,570 to 26,847. (See appendix table 4-9.) Science and engineering doctorates rose sharply in the 1960s, stabilized in the 1970s, and rose again in the 1980s and early 1990s. In 1997, the number of science and engineering doctorates dropped for the first time since 1980.

Women ^

In science and engineering fields, both the number of women earning doctoral degrees and their percentage of the total have risen steadily over the years. In 1966, women earned 924 or 8 percent of all science and engineering doctoral degrees awarded. (See appendix tables 4-10 and 4-11.) By 1997, they earned 8,796, or 33 percent. Men, on the other hand, accounted for all of the decline in the number of doctorates in the 1970s and for the decrease between 1996 and 1997. (See figure 4-5.)

Women earn a smaller percentage of the doctoral degrees in science and engineering than they do of the doctoral degrees in other fields. In 1997, women earned 8,526 or 54 percent of the doctorates awarded in non-science and -engineering fields. (See appendix tables 4-10 and 4-11.)

By broad science and engineering field, women earned the highest percentage of doctoral degrees in psychology (67 percent), the biological/agricultural sciences (41†percent), and the social sciences (39 percent); they earned the lowest percentage of their doctoral degrees in engineering (12 percent) in 1997.[4] (See appendix table 4-11.)

Reductions in the doctorate field dissimilarity index over time indicate that the field distributions of male and female doctorate recipients are becoming more similar.[5] In 1966, the dissimilarity index was 26.1, indicating that 26.1 percent of women would have to switch their Ph.D. field to match the field distribution for male Ph.D. recipients. By 1996, the dissimilarity index was 17.4. (See appendix table 4-10 and figure 4-2.)

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Minorities (U.S. citizens and permanent residents only) ^

More than half (59 percent) of all doctorates awarded to U.S. citizens and permanent residents were earned in science and engineering fields in 1997. (See appendix table 4-12.) For two groupsóblacks and American Indiansómore than half of the doctorates earned in 1997 were in non-science and -engineering fields, primarily education. Specifically, 37 percent of the doctorates earned by blacks and 32 percent of those earned by American Indians were in education, compared with 18 percent earned by all U.S. citizens and permanent residents. (See figure 4-6.) In contrast, 80 percent of the doctorates earned by Asians were in science and engineering, and only 6 percent were in education in 1997.

A dissimilarity index was constructed to measure the amount of similarity or dissimilarity in the distributions of racial/ethnic groups by field of doctorate.[6] The dissimilarity index is highest for Asians: 31.3 percent of Asians would have to switch their doctoral field to match the distribution of white Ph.D. recipients. The index is lowest for Hispanics, 7.1 percent of whom would have to switch their field of doctorate to match the distribution for white Ph.D. recipients. The dissimilarity index was 17.4 for black and 13.7 for American Indian Ph.D. recipients. The indices were smaller in 1997 than in 1975 for all nonwhite racial/ethnic groups.

U.S. citizens and permanent residents earned 18,005 doctorates in science and engineering in 1997. Of these, 76 percent were earned by whites, 14 percent by Asians, 4 percent by Hispanics, 3 percent by blacks, and 0.4†percent by American Indians.[7] (See appendix table†4-13.) The number of doctoral degrees in science and engineering awarded to Asians, blacks, Hispanics, and American Indians rose between 1975 and 1997. (See appendix table 4-12 and figure 4-7.) For blacks, much of this growth occurred in the 1990s. The number of doctoral degrees in science and engineering awarded to whites fluctuated between 12,000 and 14,000 from 1975 through 1997.

Asians ^

Asians earned 14 percent of the science and engineering doctorates awarded to U.S. citizens and permanent residents in 1997; this was up from 5 percent in 1975. (See appendix table 4-12.) Asians earned, in contrast, only 5 percent of the doctorates awarded that year in non-science and -engineering fields. The number of doctoral degrees in science and engineering earned by U.S. citizen or permanent resident Asians spiked in 1994 and 1995 as a result of changes in immigration policy. (See sidebar on following page.) Although the numbers of these doctorate-holders dropped in 1996 and 1997, they were still well above the 1993 total.

Asians constituted about one-fifth of engineering and computer science doctorate recipients in 1997 and about one-sixth of the doctorate recipients in the physical sciences, mathematics, and biological sciences. They receive relatively small percentages of the doctorates awarded in psychology (4 percent) and the social sciences (8 percent). (See appendix table 4-12.)

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Blacks ^

The number of science and engineering doctorates awarded to blacks remained fairly constant from 1975 to 1990óapproximately 300 to 375 degrees per yearóbut rose in the 1990s, reaching 607 in 1997. (See appendix table 4-12.) Blacks accounted for 3 percent of all science and engineering doctorate recipients in 1997, up from 2†percent in 1975. In contrast, they received 7 percent of the doctorates in non-science and -engineering fields in 1997.

Fewer than half of all doctoral degrees earned by blacks were in science and engineering. Blacks earned almost as many doctoral degrees in education (553) as they did in science and engineering in 1997. Half of the science and engineering doctorates earned by blacks in 1997 were in psychology and the social sciences, compared with 32 percent of those earned by all U.S. citizens and permanent residents. (See appendix table 4-13.)

Hispanics ^

Hispanics earned 151 of the science and engineering Ph.D.s awarded in 1975 and 645 of those awarded in 1997. (See appendix table 4-12.) They comprised 4 percent of the science and engineering doctorate recipients in 1997, up from just 1 percent in 1975. Hispanics also accounted for 4 percent of the doctorate recipients in non-science and -engineering fields in 1997.

About one-fourth (27 percent) of the science and engineering doctorates earned by Hispanics in 1997 were awarded to Puerto Ricans; another one-fourth (24 percent) were awarded to Mexican Americans. (See appendix table†4-13.)

Fifty-five percent of all doctorates earned by Hispanics in 1997 were in science and engineering fields. More than one-fourth (26 percent) of these were in psychology; in contrast, 17 percent of the science and engineering doctorates earned by all U.S. citizens and permanent residents were in this field.

American Indians ^

The number of science and engineering doctorates earned by American Indians increased from 13 in 1975 to 96 in 1996, but dropped to 71 in 1997. (See appendix table 4-12.) American Indians earned 0.4 percent of the science and engineering doctorates awarded to U.S. citizens and permanent residents in 1997, up from 0.1†percent in 1975. They earned 0.6 percent of non-science and -engineering doctorates in 1997.

Forty-six percent of the science and engineering doctorates earned by American Indians in 1997 were in psychology and the social sciences in 1997, compared with 32 percent of those earned by all U.S. citizens and permanent residents.

Minority women ^

The numbers of doctoral degrees in science and engineering awarded to women and men in almost every racial/ethnic group increased from 1975 to 1997, with the single exception of white men. (See appendix tables 4-14 and 4-15.) The numbers of doctorates granted to women in each racial/ethnic group more than doubled in this time period: from 2,347 to 5,180 for white women, 71 to 280 for black women, 108 to 896 for Asian women, 16 to 262 for Hispanic women, and 3 to 31 for American Indian women.

The proportions of doctoral degrees granted in science and engineering to women in each racial/ethnic group also increased from 1975 to 1997. (See text table 4-4.) Asian, black, Hispanic, and American Indian women accounted for less than 1 percent of U.S. citizen and permanent resident doctorate recipients in 1975. In 1997, in contrast, Asian women received 5 percent, black women 1.6†percent, Hispanic women 1.5 percent, and American Indian women 0.2 percent of science and engineering doctorate recipients.

In 1997, women earned fewer than half of the science and engineering doctorates in every racial/ethnic group. Specifically, women earned 46 percent of science and engineering doctorates among blacks and 44 percent, 41†percent, 38 percent, and 35 percent among American Indians, Hispanics, whites, and Asians, respectively. (See appendix tables 4-14 and 4-15.)

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Persons with disabilities ^

The number of science and engineering doctorates earned by persons with disabilities was 318 in 1997, or about 1 percent of the total number of science and engineering doctoral degrees awarded. The percentage of science and engineering doctorate recipients with disabilities has not changed appreciably since 1989. (See appendix table 4-16.)

Higher proportions of doctorate recipients with disabilities than of those without disabilities earned their doctorates in psychology and the social sciences; lower proportions earned their doctorates in the physical sciences, biological sciences, and engineering. (See appendix table 4-17 and figure 4-8.)

Postgraduation plans and postdoctoral fellowships[8] ^

About two-thirds of U.S. citizen and permanent resident science and engineering doctorate recipients in 1997 had definite postgraduation plans at the time they received their doctorate, and 61 percent had definite plans to remain in the United States. Of these last, 36 percent planned to pursue postdoctoral study. (See appendix table 4-18.)

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Women ^

Among all U.S. citizen and permanent resident science and engineering doctoral recipients in 1997 who had definite postgraduation plans, women were more likely than men to have plans for postdoctoral study (39†percent versus 34 percent) or for academic employment (23†percent versus 17 percent). On the other hand, they were less likely than men to have plans for employment in industry (14†percent versus 25 percent). These general findings vary somewhat by field, however. Thus, within some fields (physical sciences, biological sciences, agricultural sciences, psychology, social sciences) menís and womenís postgraduation plans were similar. For example, within the physical sciences, 28†percent of both men and women planned industrial employment. Within other fields, differences remain. In mathematics, for example, 43†percent of women and 36†percent of men planned academic employment.

The number of postdoctoral fellowsóof either sexóin science and engineering steadily increased from 1979 to 1997. (See appendix table 4-19.) During this period, the proportion of postdoctorates held by women rose from 19 percent to 29 percent. Women accounted for a smaller percentage of postdoctoral fellows than of doctorate recipients (33 percent) in 1997, particularly in mathematics and psychology. (See figure 4-9.)

Minorities ^

Black and American Indian U.S. citizen and permanent resident science and engineering doctorate recipients in 1997 were less likely than members of other racial/ethnic groups to have definite plans for postdoctoral study. Among those with plans for employment, a higher percentage of blacks and American Indians than of whites and Asians had definite plans for academic employment, while a lower percentage had definite plans for industrial employment. (See appendix table 4-20.) These patterns are related to differences in degree fieldóthose with degrees in the social sciences and psychology are less likely than those whose degrees were in other fields to take postdoctoral appointments and are more likely to choose academic employment.

Persons with disabilities ^

Persons with disabilities were less likely than those with no disabilities among the 1997 cohort of U.S. citizen and permanent resident science and engineering doctoral recipients to have plans for postdoctoral study (28 percent versus 36 percent) and for industrial employment (18†percent versus 21 percent). (See appendix table 4-21.) Persons with disabilities were more likely than those without to have plans for academic employment (23 percent versus 19 percent) and employment in ďotherĒ sectors (22 percent versus 16 percent). These patterns are, again, related to differences in degree field (as was the case for women and minorities). Higher percentages of doctorate recipients with disabilities than without disabilities earned their doctorates in psychology and the social sciences, fields in which fewer recipients pursue postdoctoral study; lower percentages earned their doctorates in the physical and biological sciences, which are fields in which postdoctoral study is prevalent.

References ^

National Science Foundation, Division of Science Resources Studies (NSF). 1996. Undergraduate Origins of Recent (1991-95) Science and Engineering Doctorate Recipients. NSF 96-334. Arlington, VA.

óóó.†2000. Modes of Financial Support in the Graduate Education of S&E Doctorate Recipients. NSF 00-319. By Mark Morgan, Joan Burrelli, and Alan Rapoport. Arlington, VA.

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Footnotes

[1] Data on the race/ethnicity of bachelorís and masterís degree recipients were collected biennially by the National Center for Education Statistics from 1977 to 1989 and annually thereafter. The data were collected only at the broad field level until 1995. Because of changes in field taxonomy in 1985, data on bachelorís and masterís degrees by race/ethnicity and field from 1985 on are not comparable to earlier data. Data on the race/ethnicity of doctoral degree recipients were first collected in the Survey of Earned Doctorates in 1973. Data for 1973 and 1974 are excluded from this report because they included a large number of doctorate recipients of ďunknownĒ race/ethnicity.

[2] The dissimilarity index is a measure of the percentage of women masterís degree recipients who would need to switch fields of study to match the field distribution of men students receiving masterís degrees. The index is calculated as the sum of the absolute difference between the percentages of male and female degree recipients in each field divided by 2. The fields used in the calculation are engineering; physical sciences; earth, atmospheric, and ocean sciences; mathematics; computer science; biological/agricultural sciences; psychology; social sciences; and non-science and -engineering.

[3] This dissimilarity index is a measure of the percentage of masterís degree recipients in a racial/ethnic group who would need to switch fields of study to match the field distribution of white students receiving masterís degrees. The index is calculated as the sum of the absolute difference between the percentage of masterís degree recipients in a particular racial/ethnic group earning masterís degrees in each field and the percentage of their white counterparts earning masterís degrees in each field divided by 2. The fields used in the calculation are engineering; physical sciences; earth, atmospheric, and ocean sciences; mathematics; computer science; biological/agricultural sciences; psychology; social sciences; and non-science and -engineering.

[4] See http://www.nsf.gov/statistics/doctorates/ for data on doctoral degrees by finer field and for the most recent data on doctoral degrees.

[5] The dissimilarity index is a measure of the percentage of female doctorate recipients who would need to switch fields of study to match the field distribution of male doctorate recipients. The index is calculated as the sum of the absolute difference between the percentage of women doctorate recipients earning degrees in each field and the percentage of men doctorate recipients earning degrees in each field divided by 2. The fields used in the calculation are engineering; physical sciences; earth, atmospheric, and ocean sciences; mathematics; computer science; biological/agricultural sciences; psychology; social sciences; and non-science and -engineering.

[6] The dissimilarity index is a measure of the percentage of doctorate recipients in a racial/ethnic group who would need to switch fields of study to match the field distribution of white recipients of doctoral degrees. The index is calculated as the sum of the absolute difference between the percentage of degree recipients in a particular racial/ethnic group earning doctorates in each field and the percentage of white doctoral recipients earning degrees in each field divided by 2. The fields used in the calculation are engineering; physical sciences; earth, atmospheric, and ocean sciences; mathematics; computer science; biological/agricultural sciences; psychology; social sciences; and non-science and -engineering.

[7] An additional 3 percent were earned by people of unknown race/ethnicity.

[8] The data presented here apply to U.S. citizens and permanent residents only.


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