Skip Navigation
small NCES header image
Projections of Education Statistics to 2011
Go to Table of ContentsChapterGo to Chapter 1Go to Chapter 2Go to Chapter 3Go to Chapter 4Go to Chapter 5Go to Chapter 6Go to List of FiguresGo to List of TablesGo to Appendices

Chapter 4
Earned Degrees Conferred


Historical growth in higher education enrollment has led to a substantial increase in the number of earned degrees conferred. Just as the unprecedented rise in female enrollment contributed to the increased number of college students, so too has it boosted the number of degrees conferred. Between 1984-85 and 1997-98, the number of degrees awarded to women rose at all levels. In 1997-98, women earned the majority of associate's, bachelor's, and master's degrees, and more than two-fifths of doctor's and first-professional degrees. Over the projection period, the number of degrees awarded to women will rise at all levels. While degrees awarded to men are projected to increase at the bachelor's level, they will remain steady at the associate's, master's, doctor's, and first-professional levels.

Projections of earned degrees by level and sex were based primarily on college-age populations and college enrollment by level and by attendance status. Factors that affect future levels of earned degrees such as choice of degree, demand for occupations, etc. were not included in the projection models. NCES projections of earned degrees by level that have been produced over the last 6 years are less accurate than projections of public elementary and secondary enrollment. For more information, see table A2.

Associate's Degrees

Between 1985-86 and 1987-88, the number of associate's degrees decreased from 446,047 to 435,085. Then, it increased to 558,555 in 1997-98 (table 26 and figure 40). It is projected to increase to 625,000 by 2010-11, an increase of 12 percent from 1997-98. The number of associate's degrees awarded to men decreased from 196,166 in 1985-86 to 186,316 in 1988-89, before rising to 217,613 in 1997-98. This number is projected to increase to 226,000 by 2010-11. The number of associate's degrees awarded to women fell from 249,881 in 1985-86 to 245,038 in 1987-88. Then, it increased to 340,942 in 1997-98, an increase of 36 percent from 1985-86. This number is projected to increase to 399,000 by 2010-11, an increase of 17 percent from 1997-98.

Bachelor's Degrees

The number of bachelor's degrees increased from 987,823 in 1985-86 to 1,184,406 in 1997-98, an increase of 20 percent (table 27 and figure 41). This number is expected to increase to 1,392,000 by 2010-11, an increase of 18 percent from 1997-98. The number of bachelor's degrees awarded to men increased from 485,923 in 1985-86 to 477,203 in 1987-88. It increased to 532,881 in 1992-93. Then, this number decreased to 519,956 in 1997-98. This number is expected to decrease to 518,000 by 1998-99 and then increase to 568,000 by 2010-11, an increase of 9 percent from 1997-98. The number of bachelor's degrees awarded to women increased from 501,900 in 1985-86 to 664,450 in 1997-98, an increase of 32 percent. This number is expected to increase to 824,000 by 2010-11, an increase of 24 percent from 1997-98.

Master's Degrees

The number of master's degrees increased from 288,567 in 1985-86 to 430,164 in 1997-98, an increase of 49 percent from 1985-86 (table 28 and figure 42). This number is expected to increase to 477,000 in 2010-11. The number of master's degrees awarded to men decreased from 143,508 in 1985-86 to 141,269 in 1986-87. Then it increased to 184,375 in 1997-98. This number is projected to decrease to 178,000 in 2000-01 and then rise to 190,000 by 2010-11. The number of master's degrees awarded to women increased from 145,059 in 1985-86 to 245,789 in 1997-98. This number is expected to increase to 287,000 in 2010-11.

Doctor's Degrees

The number of doctor's degrees increased from 33,653 in 1985-86 to 46,010 in 1997-98, an increase of 37 percent (table 29 and figure 43). This number is expected to increase to 49,100 in 2010-11. The number of doctor's degrees awarded to men increased from 21,819 in 1985-86 to 26,664 in 1997-98. This number is expected to increase to 27,600 by 2010-11. The number of doctor's degrees awarded to women rose from 11,834 in 1985-86 to 19,346 in 1997-98, an increase of 63 percent. The number of doctor's degrees awarded to women is projected to be 21,500 by 2010-11. The share of doctor's degrees awarded to women, which was 35 percent in 1985-86 and 42 percent in 1997-98, is projected to be 44 percent by 2010-11.

First-Professional Degrees

A first-professional degree is one that signifies both completion of the academic requirements for beginning practice in a given profession and a level of professional skill beyond that normally required for a bachelor's degree. This degree is based on a program requiring at least 2 academic years of work before entrance and a total of at least 6 years of work to complete the degree program, including both prior required college work and the professional program itself. These degrees include fields such as dentistry, medicine, pharmacy, law, and theological professions.

The number of first-professional degrees awarded decreased from 73,910 in 1985-86 to 70,735 in 1987-88. Then, it remained fairly steady in 1988-89 and 1989-90, before increasing to 78,598 in 1997-98 (table 30 and figure 44). This number is expected to increase to 88,300 by 2010-11. The number of first-professional degrees awarded to men decreased from 49,261 in 1985-86 to 43,846 in 1990-91. Then, it increased to 45,153 in 1992-93 and then decreased to 44,911 in 1997-98. This number is projected to increase to 46,100 by 2010-11. The number of first-professional degrees awarded to women increased from 24,649 in 1985-86 to 33,687 in 1997-98, an increase of 37 percent. This number is expected to increase to 42,200 by 2010-11, an increase of 25 percent from 1997-98. The women's proportion of first-professional degrees rose from 33 percent in 1985-86 to 43 percent in 1997-98. By 2010-11, this proportion is expected to rise to 48 percent.

back to top

Would you like to help us improve our products and website by taking a short survey?

YES, I would like to take the survey

or

No Thanks

The survey consists of a few short questions and takes less than one minute to complete.
National Center for Education Statistics - http://nces.ed.gov
U.S. Department of Education