Indicators

Graduate Degree Fields
(Last Updated: April 2015)

Between academic years 2002–03 and 2012–13, the number of master's degrees awarded increased by 45 percent, from 519,000 to 752,000, and the number of doctor's degrees awarded increased by 44 percent, from 122,000 to 175,000.

The number of master's degrees awarded by postsecondary institutions decreased by 1 percent between academic years 2011–12 and 2012–13 (from 756,000 to 752,000 degrees). Of the 752,000 master's degrees awarded in 2012–13, nearly half were concentrated in two fields: business (25 percent) and education (22 percent). The three fields awarding the next largest percentages of master's degrees were health professions and related programs (12 percent), public administration and social services (6 percent), and engineering (5 percent). In addition to being the five largest fields in 2012–13, these same fields awarded the largest percentages of master's degrees in 2002–03 and 2011–12.


Figure 1. Number of master's degrees awarded by postsecondary institutions in selected fields of study: Academic years 2002–03, 2007–08, 2011–12, and 2012–13

Figure 1. Number of master's degrees awarded by postsecondary institutions in selected fields of study: Academic years 2002–03, 2007–08, 2011–12, and 2012–13

NOTE: These five fields were selected because they were the fields in which the largest percentage of master's degrees were awarded in 2012–13. Includes only institutions that participated in Title IV federal financial aid programs. An updated version of the Classification of Instructional Programs was initiated in 2009–10. The estimates for 2002–03 and 2007–08 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 2003, Fall 2008, Fall 2012, and Fall 2013, Completions component. See Digest of Education Statistics 2014, table 323.10.


Between 2002–03 and 2012–13, the number of master's degrees awarded increased by 233,000, reflecting an increase of 45 percent. During this period, the two fields of study awarding the largest percentages of master's degrees in 2012–13, business and education, had increases in degrees awarded of 48 percent and 11 percent, respectively. Between 2011–12 and 2012–13, however, business and education degrees awarded decreased by 2 and 8 percent, respectively. The number of degrees awarded in 2012–13 was higher in each of the 20 largest fields of study than it was 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 between 2002–03 and 2012–13 (from 3,000 to 8,900 degrees, a 200 percent increase). The next largest percentage increase was in the field of parks, recreation, leisure, and fitness studies (from 3,000 to 7,100 degrees, a 140 percent increase). Among these 20 fields, the field of education had the smallest percentage increase in the number of master's degrees between 2002–03 and 2012–13 (from 148,000 to 165,000 degrees, an 11 percent increase).

The number of doctor's degrees awarded by postsecondary institutions increased by 3 percent between 2011–12 and 2012–13 (from 170,000 to 175,000 degrees). The percentages of doctor's degrees awarded in health professions and related programs (37 percent) and legal professions and studies (27 percent) made up almost two-thirds of the 175,000 doctor's degrees awarded in 2012–13. The three fields awarding the next largest percentages of doctor's degrees in 2012–13 were education (6 percent), engineering (5 percent), and biological and biomedical sciences (5 percent). These were the same five fields in which the largest percentages of doctor's degrees were awarded in 2002–03 and 2011–12.


Figure 2. Number of doctor's degrees awarded by postsecondary institutions in selected fields of study: Academic years 2002–03, 2007–08, 2011–12, and 2012–13

Figure 2. Number of doctor's degrees awarded by postsecondary institutions in selected fields of study: Academic years 2002–03, 2007–08, 2011–12, and 2012–13

NOTE: These five fields were selected because they were the fields in which the largest percentages of doctor's degrees were awarded in 2012–13. Includes only institutions that participated in Title IV federal financial aid programs. An updated version of the Classification of Instructional Programs was initiated in 2009–10. The estimates for 2002–03 and 2007–08 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 2003, Fall 2008, Fall 2012, and Fall 2013, Completions component. See Digest of Education Statistics 2014, table 324.10.


Between 2002–03 and 2012–13, the number of doctor's degrees awarded increased from 121,600 to 175,000, reflecting an increase of 44 percent. During this period, the two largest fields of study, health professions and related programs and legal professions and studies, had increases in degrees awarded of 61 percent and 21 percent, respectively. Also, doctor's degree awards were higher in each of the 20 largest fields in 2012–13 than in 2002–03. The field of business had the largest percentage increase in the number of doctor's degrees awarded between 2002–03 and 2012–13 (from 1,300 to 2,800 degrees, a 127 percent increase). The next largest percentage increase was in the field of computer and information sciences (from 800 to 1,800 degrees awarded, a 124 percent increase). Among the largest 20 fields of study, the field of English language and literature/letters had the smallest percentage increase in the number of doctor's degrees awarded between 2002–03 and 2012–13 (from 1,200 to 1,400 degrees, a 10 percent increase).


Figure 3. Number of master's and doctor's degrees awarded by postsecondary institutions, by level of degree and sex: Academic years 2002–03, 2007–08, 2011–12, and 2012–13

Figure 3. Number of master's and doctor's degrees awarded by postsecondary institutions, by level of degree and sex: Academic years 2002–03, 2007–08, 2011–12, and 2012–13

NOTE: Includes only institutions that participated in Title IV federal financial aid programs.
SOURCE: U.S. Department of Education, National Center for Education Statistics, Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System (IPEDS), Fall 2003, Fall 2008, Fall 2012, and Fall 2013, Completions component. See Digest of Education Statistics 2014, tables 323.20 and 324.20.


Females were awarded more master's degrees than males in 2012–13 (450,000 vs. 302,000 degrees), as well as in 2011–12 and 2002–03. The number of master's degrees awarded to females decreased by 1 percent between academic years 2011–12 and 2012–13 (from 453,000 to 450,000 degrees). The number of master's degrees awarded to males decreased less than one-half of 1 percent between 2011–12 and 2012–13 (from 302,500 to 301,600 degrees). Between 2002–03 and 2012–13, the number of master's degrees awarded to females increased by 147,000, reflecting an increase of 48 percent. Over the same period, the number of master's degrees awarded to males increased by 86,400, reflecting an increase of 40 percent.

Females were awarded more doctor's degrees than males in 2012–13 (89,900 vs. 85,100 degrees), as well as in 2011–12. In contrast, males earned more doctor's degrees than females in 2002–03 (62,700 vs. 58,800 degrees). The numbers of doctor's degrees awarded by postsecondary institutions to females and males both increased by 3 percent between academic years 2011–12 and 2012–13 (from 87,500 to 89,900 degrees for females and from 82,700 to 85,100 degrees for males). Between 2002–03 and 2012–13, the number of doctor's degrees awarded to females increased by 31,100, reflecting an increase of 53 percent. The number of doctor's degrees awarded to males increased by 22,400 over the decade, reflecting an increase of 36 percent.


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