April 18, 2011

What Fields do People get Graduate Degrees In?

I previously discussed What Majors Graduates Get Bachelors Degrees in where I looked at what bachelors degrees people are getting out of college. 

Today I decided to look at what fields graduate students get their degrees in.    The data is on the Census site at the 2011 Statistical Abstract page for Education. Specifically I'm referring to "299 - Master's and Doctorate's Degrees Earned by Field" [Excel 42k] | [PDF 69k]  The numbers there are for the year 2008 which I assume is the latest data they have compiled.  The Census data breaks down the degrees earned by Masters and PhD's.   First look at Masters degrees earned.

In 2008 there were a total of 625,023 masters degrees earned.

Masters degrees earned in 2008 :


Business  24.9%
Education  28.1%
Engineering and engineering technologies 5.5%
Social sciences and history  3.0%
Biological and biomedical sciences  10.8%
Psychology  3.4%
Visual and performing arts  2.3%
Communication, journalism, and related programs \2 1.2%
Computer and information sciences  2.7%
Liberal arts and sciences, general studies, and humanities  0.6%
Public administration and social services  5.3%
OTHER 12.1%

A lot of those degrees are in professional fields that are generally well paid.  

Lumping the master degrees into some wider categories it looks like this :


business, engineer, computer, scientist, management 49.3%
arts, social 10.5%
education 28.1%
other 12.1%

Now you can see that almost 50% of the degrees are in technical, business and management areas.   The next largest group is in education at 28.1% which is due to teachers pursuing higher education.

There were a total of 63,712 doctorate degrees earned in 2008.

For Doctorates earned the percentages in 2008 are as follows:


Business  3.3%
Education  13.3%
Engineering and engineering technologies 12.8%
Social sciences and history  6.4%
Biological and biomedical sciences  26.4%
Psychology  8.3%
Visual and performing arts  2.3%
Communication, journalism, and related programs \2 0.8%
Computer and information sciences  2.7%
Liberal arts and sciences, general studies, and humanities  0.1%
Public administration and social services  1.2%
OTHER 22.5%

You can see that theres some differences there from Masters.

There are a lot fewer people getting PhD's than Masters degrees in business.   The MBA is the standard for business so most people stop there.    There is a larger percent of people getting psychology degrees at the PhD level.

If we break the Ph'D's earned into the larger groups like I did for Masters degrees then the percentages look like this:

business, engineer, computer, scientist, management 46.3%
arts, social 17.9%
education 13.3%
other 22.5%

Nearly half the Phd's earned are in technical, health and business areas.   At the PhD level there are fewer people getting degrees in the education area.  We also have more people getting various 'other' degrees.

Graphically the degrees charted looks like this :


There are about 10 times as many Masters degrees earned as PhD's so the PhD's don't show up so well in the chart.

Its clear that business and education are a large portion of the fields people get graduate degrees in.  Almost half of all the graduate degrees are in those two areas.

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