Graduate Enrollment and Degrees: 2011-2012

By Betsy Prueter

The Council of Graduate Schools recently reported a 1.8% increase in first-time enrollment of graduate students and a 2.3% decline in total enrollment of students in graduate certificate, master’s or doctoral programs from Fall 2011 to Fall of 2012, according to findings from its annual survey on graduate enrollment and degrees.

The report highlighted several trends:

  • First-time enrollment increased by nearly 2%.
    • More than 60% of first-time graduate students attended public institutions; about one third attended private, not-for-profit institutions; and the remainder were enrolled at private, for-profit institutions.
    • Two-thirds of all first-time graduate students were enrolled full-time in Fall 2012.
    • First-time enrollment rose for underrepresented minorities including Latinos, American Indians, and African Americans.
    • 58% of first-time graduate students were women.
    • Although 82% of first-time graduate students were U.S. citizens, temporary residents made up significant shares of first-time enrollment in certain STEM fields. Temporary residents comprised 50.8% of first-time graduate enrollments in engineering, 50.1% in mathematics and computer science, and 28.8% in physical and earth sciences.
  • Despite the increase in first-time enrollment, total graduate enrollment declined by over 2%.
    • Enrollment fell by 1.9% at public institutions; by 1.2% at private, non-for-profit institutions; and by 9.8% at private, for-profit institutions.
    • Education, business, and health sciences enrolled the largest number of total graduate students.
    • 74% of graduate students were enrolled in certificate or master’s degree programs.
    • 58% of all graduate students were enrolled full-time and just over half of all graduate students were women.
  • Over 600,000 graduate certificates, master’s degrees, and doctoral degrees were awarded in 2011-2012, with master’s degrees accounting for over 500,000 of that total.
    • Women earned two-thirds of total certificates awarded, 60% of master’s degrees awarded, and over half of the doctoral degrees awarded.
    • Public institutions granted a majority of the degrees awarded at the certificate, master’s, and doctoral levels.
    • 40% of doctoral degrees awarded were in health sciences, engineering, and social and behavioral sciences, while the majority of master’s degrees were awarded in the fields of education and business.
    • Master’s and doctoral degrees increased in all fields between 2011-2012, though the biggest increases were in health sciences, biological and agricultural sciences, and engineering.