Title bar


Enrollment Composition
Field Choices
Enrollment Status
Sources of Support
Geographic Distribution

Enrollment Composition Up arrow

Of the total of 431,613 graduate students enrolled in science and engineering fields in 1992, 150,411 were women. (See appendix table 6-2.) The percentage of women grew steadily though slowly over the past decade, from less than 31 percent in 1982 to 35 percent in 1992. In science fields (excluding engineering), nearly 43 percent of the graduate students in 1992 were women, up from 37 percent in 1982. Women's representation increased in engineering as well during the decade, from 11 percent to almost 15 percent. In non-science and engineering fields, women made up 60 percent of the total graduate enrollment in 1991 (the latest year for which overall data are available), up from 56 percent in 1982.

Field Choices Up arrow

Women's representation in science and engineering varied greatly by field. (See figure 6-4.) In psychology, more than two-thirds of the graduate students in 1992 were women. Women were also in the majority in biometry/epidemiology, genetics, nutrition, and several social science fields. By contrast, only 14 percent of the graduate students in physics were women.

Figure 6-4

Among the engineering fields, the highest percentage of female graduate students was in biomedical engineering, about one-fourth. This was followed by industrial engineering/management science and metallurgical/materials engineering, each with a female enrollment of just under 20 percent. At the other extreme, fewer than 10 percent of the graduate students in mechanical engineering, petroleum engineering, and aerospace engineering were women.

Enrollment Status Up arrow

Women were slightly, though consistently, less likely than men to be enrolled in science fields on a full-time basis in 1992, 66 percent compared with 71 percent. (See figure 6-5.) This gap has narrowed slightly since 1982, when the proportions enrolled full time were 63 percent and 70 percent, respectively. In engineering, however, full-time enrollment is virtually the same: 62 percent of the women were enrolled full time in 1992, compared with 59 percent of the men. These percentages have changed very little over the last 10 years. In 1982, 62 percent of the female graduate engineering students and 60 percent of the men were enrolled full time.

Figure 6-5

The graduate science and engineering student population is slowly becoming more female, as indicated by the increasing percentage of women among first-year graduate students. (See appendix table 6-5.) Although the enrollment is declining slightly among both sexes, the decline is greater among men than women. Between 1985 and 1992, the proportion of first-time graduate enrollment dropped from 29 percent to 27 percent for men and from 33 percent to under 31 percent for women. In addition, women constitute a growing share of first-time enrollees: 37 percent in 1992 compared with 33 percent in 1985. (See figure 6-6.)

Figure 6-6

Sources of Support Up arrow

Both men and women in graduate science programs were more likely to be supported primarily by outside sources than to be self-supporting or to be supported by loans and/or family contributions. (See figure 6-7.) Women in science, however, were more likely to rely on self-support than were men (34 percent versus 27 percent). In engineering, however, the proportions relying primarily on self-support were virtually identical (36 percent for men, 35 percent for women). Overall, male science and engineering graduate students were more likely to receive their primary support from the Federal Government than were women (21 percent compared with less than 17 percent) and somewhat less likely to be supported by their institutions (41 percent versus 43 percent).

Figure 6-7

Geographic Distribution Up arrow

An analysis of women's graduate school enrollment by geographic region shows that only in Puerto Rico did women comprise a majority of all graduate students in science and engineering in 1992, 52 percent of the total. Other geographic areas in which women made up 40 percent or more of the total graduate enrollment in 1992 include Guam, Minnesota, Maryland, the District of Columbia, and Arkansas. (See figure 6-8.)

Figure 6-8

Within science disciplines, the numbers of female graduate students varied greatly across institutions. For example, only in agriculture and the social sciences did the institution with the largest number of female graduate students appear in the top 10 overall (See text table 6-1 and appendix table 6-9.) Fewer institutions offer graduate engineering programs; in 4 of the largest fields (civil, electrical, industrial, and mechanical engineering), the institutions with the largest numbers of women enrolled were in the top 10 overall. (See appendix table 6-10.)

TOC buttonHelp buttonAbbreviations 
buttonNSF buttonLeft button