Compared with students in other OECD countries, U.S. students are more likely to complete degrees in arts and humanities and in business, social sciences, law, and “other” fields, and less likely to complete degrees in engineering and health.
Internationally comparable data on degrees conferred at the postsecondary level have been collected through the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) using the International Standard Classification of Education (ISCED). This indicator presents data on academic postsecondary programs (ISCED levels 5A and 6) in 2004 corresponding to bachelor’s, master’s, first-professional, and doctoral degrees in the United States.
For many fields, the differences between the proportions of graduates earning postsecondary degrees in the United States and other OECD countries in 2004 were relatively small. In education, physical and biological sciences, computer science, and mathematics, the United States was within 1 percentage point of the OECD average. In contrast, the United States was 7.7 percentage points higher than the international average in business, social sciences, and other fields combined1 (47.7 vs. 40.0 per-cent), and 3.8 percentage points higher in arts and humanities combined. The U.S. proportion of degrees in business, social sciences, and other fields combined1 (47.7) was higher than in any other reporting OECD country, except for Hungary (49.3) and Poland (66.8). Fields in which the U.S. proportion of graduates earning degrees was somewhat lower than the OECD average included health (4.1 percentage points) and engineering (5.8 percentage points).
While the total number of engineering degrees conferred in the United States was relatively high compared with other OECD countries, the proportion of graduates earning degrees in engineering in the United States was relatively low. The proportion of U.S. graduates earning their degrees in engineering (6.4 percent) in 2004 was lower than the other five Group of Eight (G-8) countries reporting data, including Canada (7.8 percent), France (12.4 percent), Italy (15.5 percent), Germany (16.5 percent), and Japan (20.2 percent). Compared more generally with the other 27 OECD countries reporting data, Hungary (6.3 percent), Iceland (5.6 percent), Greece (5.2 percent), and New Zealand (4.9 percent) had proportions lower than the United States, while the remaining 23 countries had higher proportions of graduates earning degrees in engineering.
1Includes journalism, agriculture, and services. (back to text)
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