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Master's Degrees

Master's Degrees Up arrow

Of the 338,498 master's degrees awarded in all fields in 1991, 181,603, or 54 percent, were earned by women. [1] They first received a majority of all master's degrees in 1981; they earned more than half the non-science and engineering degrees beginning in 1975. In science and engineering fields, both the number of women earning master's degrees and their percentage of the total have risen steadily, increasing in the last 10 years to 27,927, with their share of the total rising to 36 percent. (See figures 7-2 and 7-3.) In contrast, the number of science and engineering degree awards to men reached a high in 1977 that has been equalled only once since then, in 1990.

Figure 7-2 Figure 7-3

There were important differences in the degree awards to women by field. In the science fields as a whole (excluding engineering), women steadily increased their share of the master's degrees awarded, so that by the end of the decade their percentage of master's degrees was approaching the percentage of women in the population. By 1991 women, who represent 51 percent of the U.S. population, accounted for 45 percent of science master's degrees, up from 37 percent a decade earlier. (See appendix table 7-2.)
Among the science fields, women were most heavily represented in psychology, earning almost 70 percent of the master's degrees, up from 58 percent in 1981; biological sciences (52 percent in 1991, 39 percent in 1981); and social sciences (almost 46 percent in 1991). Men were most heavily represented in earth, atmospheric, and ocean sciences (74 percent of the degrees) and the physical sciences (72 percent).
Women remained underrepresented in engineering, although the percentage of master's degrees earned by women did increase, from 8 percent to 14 percent. (See figure 7-3 and appendix table 7-3.)
The top 50 institutions ranked on master's degrees awarded to women accounted for 34 percent of the science and engineering master's degrees awarded to women. (See appendix table 7-4.)

Doctorates Up arrow

The trends in doctorates parallel those in bachelor's and master's degrees. Women of all citizenship groups earned 14,366 of the 38,814 doctorates awarded in all fields in 1992, 37 percent of the total. In non-science and engineering, women earned 52 percent of the doctorates awarded in 1992, up from 45 percent a decade earlier. (See figure 7-4.) In science and engineering, women earned 29 percent of the doctorates awarded in 1992, up from 24 percent of the total in 1982. The numeric increase in doctoral degrees in science and engineering awarded to women, from 4,307 in 1982 to 6,956 in 1992, was an increase of almost 62 percent. (See figure 7-5.)

Figure 7-4 Figure 7-5

Important differences marked trends in science and engineering fields. In science as a whole (excluding engineering) women received 34 percent of the doctorates in 1992, a sizeable increase from 27 percent in 1982. (See appendix table 7-6.) In 1992 women earned the highest percentage of doctorates in psychology (59 percent), the only broad science field in which women received a majority of the doctorates. Psychology was followed by biological sciences (38 percent of all awards to women) and the social sciences (35 percent). (See figure 7-6.) Men, on the other hand, earned the highest percentage of doctorates in engineering (91 percent), computer sciences (86 percent), and mathematical sciences (81 percent). (See appendix table 7-5.)

Figure 7-6

Although the number of women earning doctorates in engineering remained small in 1992-503, less than 10 percent of the total-it was still a major increase from 1982. (See appendix table 7-6.) A decade earlier only 124 women had earned engineering doctorates, less than 5 percent of the total. In the physical sciences, women more than doubled their number of doctoral degrees, from 357 in 1982 to 765 in 1992.

1. This report presents the latest data available at each degree level. For master's degrees, data are shown through 1991. Data for doctorates are available for 1992. Up arrow
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