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Graduate Degree Fields
(Last Updated: April 2014)

Between academic years 2001–02 and 2011–12, the number of master's degrees awarded increased by 55 percent, from 487,300 to 754,200, and the number of doctor's degrees awarded increased by 42 percent, from 119,700 to 170,100.

The number of master's degrees awarded by postsecondary institutions increased by 3 percent between 2010–11 and 2011–12 (from 730,600 to 754,200 degrees). Of the 754,200 master's degrees awarded in academic year 2011–12, nearly half were concentrated in two fields: business (25 percent) and education (24 percent). The three fields awarding the next largest percentages of master's degrees were health professions and related programs (11 percent), public administration and social services (6 percent), and engineering (5 percent). These were the same five fields in which the largest percentages of master's degrees were awarded in 2001–02 and 2010–11.


Figure 1. Number of master's degrees awarded by Title IV postsecondary institutions in selected fields of study: Academic years 2001–02, 2006–07, 2010–11, and 2011–12

Figure 1. Number of master's degrees awarded by Title IV postsecondary institutions in selected fields of study: Academic years 2001–02, 2006–07, 2010–11, and 2011–12

NOTE: These five fields were selected because they were the fields in which the largest percentage of master's degrees were awarded in 2011–12. Includes only institutions that participated in Title IV federal financial aid programs. The new Classification of Instructional Programs was initiated in 2009–10. The estimates for 2001–02 and 2006–07 have been reclassified when necessary to make them conform to the new taxonomy. "Business" includes Business, management, marketing, and related support services and Personal and culinary services.
SOURCE: U.S. Department of Education, National Center for Education Statistics, Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System (IPEDS), Fall 2002, Fall 2007, Fall 2011, and Fall 2012, Completions component. See Digest of Education Statistics 2013, table 323.10.


Overall, the number of master's degrees awarded increased by 266,900 between academic years 2001–02 and 2011–12, reflecting an increase of 55 percent. During this period, the two fields of study awarding the largest percentages of master's degrees, business and education, had increases in degrees awarded of 60 percent and 32 percent, respectively; although, education degrees awarded decreased by 4 percent between 2010–12 and 2011–12. In each of the 20 major fields awarding the largest percentages of master's degrees in 2011–12, the number awarded was higher than the number awarded a decade earlier. The field of homeland security, law enforcement, and firefighting exhibited the largest percentage increase in the number of master's degrees awarded (from 2,900 to 8,400 degrees, a 186 percent increase) between 2001–02 and 2011–12. The next largest percentage increase was in the field of parks, recreation, leisure, and fitness studies (from 2,600 to 7,000 degrees, a 173 percent increase). Among the 20 largest fields of study for master's degrees in 2011–12, the field of theology and religious vocations saw the smallest percentage increase in the number of master's degrees awarded over the period (33 percent, from 10,100 to 13,400 degrees).

The number of doctor's degrees awarded by postsecondary institutions increased by 4 percent between 2010–11 and 2011–12 (from 163,800 to 170,100 degrees). The percentages of doctor's degrees awarded in health professions and related programs (37 percent) and legal professions and studies (28 percent) made up almost two-thirds of the 170,100 doctor's degrees awarded in 2011–12. The three fields awarding the next largest percentages of doctor's degrees in 2011–12 were education, engineering, and biological and biomedical sciences (each accounted for 5 percent or more of all doctor's degrees awarded). These were the same five fields in which the largest percentages of doctor's degrees were awarded a decade earlier and in 2010–11.


Figure 2. Number of doctor's degrees awarded by Title IV postsecondary institutions in selected fields of study: Academic years 2001–02, 2006–07, 2010–11, and 2011–12

Figure 2. Number of doctor's degrees awarded by Title IV postsecondary institutions in selected fields of study: Academic years 2001–02, 2006–07, 2010–11, and 2011–12

NOTE: These five fields were selected because they were the fields in which the largest percentages of doctor's degrees were awarded in 2011–12. Includes only institutions that participated in Title IV federal financial aid programs. The new Classification of Instructional Programs was initiated in 2009–10. The estimates for 2001–02 and 2006–07 have been reclassified when necessary to make them conform to the new taxonomy.
SOURCE: U.S. Department of Education, National Center for Education Statistics, Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System (IPEDS), Fall 2002, Fall 2007, Fall 2011, and Fall 2012, Completions component. See Digest of Education Statistics 2013, table 324.10.


Overall, the number of doctor's degrees awarded increased by 50,400 between academic years 2001–02 and 2011–12, reflecting an increase of 42 percent. During this period, the two fields of study awarding the largest percentages of doctor's degrees, health professions and related programs and legal professions and studies, had increases in degrees awarded of 57 percent and 20 percent, respectively. In each of the 20 major fields of study awarding the largest percentages of doctor's degrees in 2011–12, the number awarded was higher than the number awarded a decade earlier. The field of computer and information sciences exhibited the largest percentage increase in the number of doctor's degrees awarded (from 752 to 1,700 degrees, a 126 percent increase) between 2001–02 and 2011–12. The next largest percentage increase was in the field of business (from 1,200 to 2,500 degrees awarded, a 119 percent increase). Among the 20 fields of study awarding the largest percentages of doctor's degrees in 2011–12, the field of English language and literature/letters saw the smallest percentage increase in the number of doctor's degrees awarded between 2001–02 and 2011–12 (11 percent, from 1,300 to 1,400 degrees).


Glossary terms: Classification of Instructional Programs (CIP), Doctor's degree, Master's degree
Data Source: Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System (IPEDS)


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National Center for Education Statistics - http://nces.ed.gov
U.S. Department of Education