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Graduate School Admissions Trends: Masters and PhD Programs

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A new study released by the Council of Graduate Schools paints a mixed picture of American graduate school education today. Trends identified by the study include the following.

1. Enrollments in Master’s Degree and Graduate Certificate Programs Are Down, but PhD Program Enrollments are Up

Enrollments in Master’s degree and graduate certificate programs were down 1.6 percent in 2010, fueled by drops of 8.1 percent in master’s degrees in education and 2.9 percent in business. Contributing factors included the hesitancy of prospective students to take on debt or leave jobs, and employers’ reluctance to subsidize employee graduate studies at a time of economic uncertainty. In contrast, PhD enrollments were up 1.5 percent in 2010 as departmental grants for enrollees remained intact.

2. International Student Graduate Schools Enrollments Continued to Climb
Enrollment of international students in American graduate programs was up 4.7 percent in 2010. International students made up a whopping 45 percent of graduate enrollees in math and computer science and in engineering.

3. Women Make up an Increasing Proportion of Graduate Students
The presence of women in graduate programs continues to grow and they now make up 58 percent of graduate students. Women constitute 80 percent of the graduate student body in the health sciences and 78 percent in public administration. Women still make up a distinct minority of graduate students in math and computer sciences with 30 percent of the total and in the physical and earth sciences with 39 percent of students.

4. Latino Graduate School Enrollments are Inching Up as Other Ethnic/Racial Groups Experience Declines
In terms of graduate enrollments of ethnic and racial groups (among U.S permanent residents), Latino numbers grew by 4.9 percent in 2010. Asian graduate enrollment percentages dropped by 0.1 percent for the year while declines were recorded among whites (0.6 percent), blacks (8.4 percent), and Native-Americans (20.6 percent).

Conclusion
Advanced degrees remain the best path to opportunity and prosperity for Americans in the post- industrial era, as borne out in numerous studies, despite enrollment fluctuations in selected fields and a cloudy national economic picture.

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