U.S. and Global STEM Education
Education in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics—STEM—develops, preserves, and disseminates knowledge and skills that convey personal, economic, and social benefits. Higher education provides the advanced work skills needed in an increasingly knowledge-intensive, globally integrated, and innovation-based landscape.
Over the past two decades, U.S. students’ mathematics scores on national assessments have modestly improved.
However, on international assessment tests, U.S. 15-year-olds tend to score below the international average in mathematics and have science scores at or slightly above the international average.
Average mathematics and science PISA test scores of 15-year-olds in the United States and OECD countries: 2006, 2012, and 2015
|Year and assessment area||United States||OECD|
OECD = Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development; PISA = Program for International Student Assessment.
Indicators 2018: Mathematics and Science Performance in Grades 4, 8, and 12, Chapter 1.
The United States awards many associate’s degrees (over 1 million in 2015), nearly one-quarter of which are in S&E fields (9%) and S&E technologies (14%). The latter, which have a more applied focus, grew by 72% since 2000, and are concentrated in health and engineering technologies.
Since 2000, women earned about 60% of associate’s degrees in all fields. But their proportion in S&E fields was less than half (44%) in 2015, reflecting primarily a drop in women’s participation in computer science during this period (42% to 21%).
Associate’s degree awards in S&E fields and S&E technologies: 2000–15
|Year||Engineering||Computer sciences||Other sciences||Mathematics and statistics||Social and behavioral sciences||S&E technologies|
Other sciences includes agricultural, biological, earth, atmospheric and ocean, and physical sciences. S&E technologies includes engineering, health science, and other S&E technologies.
Indicators 2018: Institutions Providing S&E Education, Chapter 2.
U.S. output of bachelor’s degrees has increased by more than one-half over the past 2 decades. S&E degrees have consistently accounted for over one-third of the total.
Globally, S&E bachelor’s degree awards totaled more than 7.5 million. Almost half of these degrees were conferred in India (25%) and China (22%); another 20% were conferred in the EU (10%) and the United States (10%). The number of S&E degrees has risen much faster over the past 15 years in India and China than in the United States and many European countries.
S&E fields account for a larger proportion of all bachelor’s degrees in China than in the United States. In 2014, these fields accounted for 48% of all bachelor’s degrees in China, compared with 39% of all bachelor’s degrees in the United States.
Bachelor's degree awards in S&E fields, by selected region, country, or economy: 2000–14
|Year||China||EU-Top 8||Japan||South Korea and Taiwan||United States|
EU-Top 8 is the eight European Union countries with the most bachelor's degree awards in 2014: UK, Germany, France, Poland, Italy, Spain, Romania, and the Netherlands.
Indicators 2018: First University Degrees in S&E Fields, Chapter 2.
Advanced training toward the doctorate has expanded in recent years. The number of doctoral degrees in S&E has risen dramatically in China, whereas the numbers awarded in the United States, South Korea, and the eight EU countries with the most doctorate awards have risen more modestly.
In 2014, the United States graduated the largest number of S&E doctorate recipients of any individual country, followed by China. In the United States, more than one-third (37%) of these doctorates were earned by temporary visa holders.
Doctoral degree awards in S&E fields, by selected region, country, or economy: 2000–14
|Year||U.S. total||U.S. citizens and permanent residents||U.S. temporary visa holders||China||EU-Top 8||Japan||South Korea and Taiwan|
EU-Top 8 is the eight European Union countries with the most doctoral degree awards in 2014: Germany, UK, France, Spain, Italy, Portugal, Sweden, and Romania.
Indicators 2018: International Comparison of S&E Doctoral Degrees, Chapter 2.
The United States remains the destination of choice for the largest number of internationally mobile students worldwide. Yet the share of the world’s internationally mobile students enrolled in the United States fell from 25% in 2000 to 19% in 2014, due to efforts by other countries to attract more foreign students and to growing higher education capacity around the world. Other popular destinations for internationally mobile students are the United Kingdom, Australia, France, Russia, and Germany.
International students enrolled in tertiary education, by selected country of enrollment: 2014
Indicators 2018: International Student Mobility, Chapter 2.
Public institutions in the United States, as part of their mission, have traditionally offered access to high-quality education for students, where in-state students generally pay a lower tuition than out-of-state students. Between 2000 and 2015, the cost of attending U.S. public research universities has risen, coinciding with a decline in state and local appropriations, a considerable source of institution revenue.
Among dependent undergraduate students attending public research universities, out-of-pocket tuition and fees vary across families in different income brackets and have increased for families at both the lower and higher income brackets.
Tuition and state and local appropriations in the U.S. public research universities: 2000–15
|Year||Revenues, net tuition||Revenues, state and local appropriations|
Data are per full-time equivalent student and for the most research-intensive universities. Net tuition data reflect tuition after subtracting institutional grant aid.
Indicators 2018: Trends in Higher Education Expenditures and Revenues, Chapter 2.