Degree Growth by Men and Women in “Hard Sciences” Outpacing Other Fields

Degree Growth by Men and Women in “Hard Sciences” Outpacing Other Fields

by | Apr 11, 2017 | Research Reports, Research Services, Snapshot Reports |

Women Earned Nearly Half of All Science & Engineering Bachelor’s Degrees in 2016

The National Student Clearinghouse Research Center today released Snapshot 27: Science and Engineering Degree Completions by Gender, the first, national-level view of science and engineering degrees awarded in 2015-16.

The National Student Clearinghouse Research Center found that since 2005-06, degrees earned in the so-called “hard sciences” increased in prevalence compared to other fields of study for both genders, but at a faster pace for men. Excluding social sciences and psychology, the share of bachelor’s degrees accounted for by science and engineering disciplines increased five percentage points for men and two percentage points for women.

“Women earned half of all science & engineering bachelor’s degrees in 2016, which was due to their dominance in biology, social sciences and psychology,” said Doug Shapiro, Executive Research Director of the National Student Clearinghouse Research Center. “However, they earned only one in five degrees in engineering, and even less in computer science. This illustrates the importance, for institutions and policy makers, of tracking the data at different degree levels and within specific fields of study.”

Women Earned Nearly Half of All Science & Engineering Bachelor’s Degrees in 2016

Including social sciences and psychology, women earned 49 percent of all 2015-16 science and engineering bachelor’s degrees, 42 percent of science and engineering master’s degrees, and 39 percent of science and engineering doctoral degrees. This is a slight decrease in bachelor’s and master’s degrees when compared to 2005-06, and no change for doctoral degrees. But there was considerable variation among specific disciplines:

  • The share of bachelor’s degrees earned by women increased in only two of the seven science and engineering disciplines covered in the report, but one of the disciplines in which women gained ground was engineering, where they saw a two percentage point increase.
  • The share of master’s degrees accounted for by women increased in three science and engineering disciplines, with the biggest increase having occurred in computer sciences, where the share of master’s degrees earned by women grew three percentage points. Meanwhile, men increased in three disciplines with the largest increase in the Social Sciences and Psychology, with a four percent increase.
  • The share of doctoral degrees earned by women increased in four science and engineering disciplines. In two disciplines, Engineering and Biological/Agricultural Sciences, the share of doctoral degrees earned by women increased by four percentage points. In Biological and Agriculture Sciences, women earned more degrees than men, 52 percent to 48 percent, which is a switch from 2006.

The disciplines covered in the report include: engineering; computer science; earth, atmospheric, and ocean sciences; physical sciences; mathematics; biological and agricultural sciences; and social sciences and psychology. The report’s data tables provide a data from 2005-06 to 2015-16 for the public to compare and contrast.

“Women earned half of all science & engineering bachelor’s degrees in 2016, which was due to their dominance in biology, social sciences and psychology. They earned only one in five degrees in engineering, and even less in computer science. This illustrates the importance, for institutions and policy makers, of tracking the data at different degree levels and within specific fields of study.”

Doug Shapiro
Executive Research Director of the National Student Clearinghouse Research Center

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