Number of science, engineering grad students up in 2014

Increase largely due to influx of foreign students; number of ag science graduate students continues to rise.

Tim Lundeen 1, Feedstuffs Editor

March 31, 2016

5 Min Read
Number of science, engineering grad students up in 2014

The number of science and engineering (S&E) graduate students at U.S. academic institutions rose 3% between 2013 and 2014, owing largely to a 13.1% increase in foreign graduate enrollment, according to the National Science Foundation (NSF).

NSF said a new report from the National Center for Science & Engineering Statistics (NCSES) shows that in 2014, a total of 587,161 students were enrolled in S&E master's or doctorate programs, up from a comparable number of 570,300 the previous year (Table).

There was also an influx of nearly 25,000 additional S&E graduate students on temporary visas over the same period, bringing foreign student enrollment to 213,783. NSF said the increase in foreign students overshadowed a 2.1% decline in domestic graduate enrollment, which fell from 381,225 in 2013 to 373,378 in 2014.

The NCSES report also shows a continuing trend of full-time graduate students shifting from federal sources of financial support to self-support. Since 2009, the amount of students receiving federal support declined from 19.0% to 15.7%, including a 5.3% decline of 3,895 fewer students between 2013 and 2014.

Institutional support, meanwhile, has remained stable since 2009, with about 40.2% of students receiving institutional support, even with growing graduate enrollment.

Other findings in the report include:

* A rise in enrollment in computer sciences and electrical engineering continued, with computer sciences increasing by 22.1% and electrical engineering by 9.9% from 2013 to 2014.

* Graduate enrollment in most of the engineering fields has risen by at least 20% over the past five years.

* Graduate enrollment declined by 5.8% in psychology and 2.6% in the social sciences from 2013 to 2014.

* Graduate enrollment in agricultural sciences has been steadily increasing, with 16,947 students in 2014 — 3.2% more than in 2015. The number of postdoctoral appointees in agricultural sciences has also been on the rise, increasing to 1,395 appointees in 2014, up 5.8%.

The NCSES findings were drawn from the 2014 "Survey of Graduate Students & Postdoctorates in Science & Engineering." In 2014, the survey frame was updated following an evaluation that identified 151 eligible but not previously surveyed U.S. academic institutions. Under the new survey frame, total enrollment in 2014 for graduate students in S&E was 601,883, and foreign graduate enrollment in those fields was 219,371.

For more information, including how the graduate enrollment levels changed in specific areas of study, read the full InfoBrief.

NSF is an independent federal agency that supports fundamental research and education across all S&E fields. It has a budget of $7.5 billion for fiscal 2016. NSF funds reach all 50 states through grants to nearly 2,000 colleges, universities and other institutions.

Graduate enrollment in S&E, by field: 2009-14

% change




  Agricultural sciences

  Biological sciences

  Computer sciences

  Earth, atmospheric & ocean sciences

  Mathematics & statistics

  Physical sciences


  Social sciences

  Other sciencesb


  Aerospace eng.


  Biomedical eng.

  Chemical eng.

  Civil eng.

  Electrical eng.

  Industrial & manufacturing eng.

  Mechanical eng.

  Metallurgical & materials eng.

  Other eng.

aIn 2014, the survey frame was updated following a comprehensive frame evaluation study. The study identified potentially eligible but not previously surveyed U.S. academic institutions with master’s- or doctorate-granting programs in science, engineering or health. A total of 151 newly eligible institutions were added, and two private for-profit institutions offering mostly practitioner-based graduate degrees were determined to be ineligible.

b Includes communication, family and consumer sciences and human sciences, neuroscience and multidisciplinary and interdisciplinary studies.

SOURCE: National Science Foundation, National Center for Science and Engineering Statistics, Survey of Graduate Students & Postdoctorates in Science & Engineering.

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