Adults with higher levels of education earn higher average salaries and are less likely to be unemployed than their less-educated peers (U.S. Department of Education 2005, indicators 16 and 17). In 2004, a total of 2.8 million associate's or higher degrees were awarded, of which 1.4 million were bachelor's degrees.29
Indicator 25.1. All degrees
Across all racial/ethnic groups shown, more women than men received degrees in 2004. This difference was especially pronounced among Blacks, but less so among Asians/Pacific Islanders and Whites. Black females received twice as many associate's, bachelor's, and master's degrees as their male counterparts. Asian/Pacific Islander females received 55 percent of all degrees granted to Asians/Pacific Islanders, and White females received 58 percent of all degrees granted to Whites.
A greater number of degrees were earned by Blacks than Hispanics in 2004, even though Hispanics make up a larger percentage of the total U.S. population than Blacks (see indicator 1). Among those who earned degrees, the proportions of Hispanics and American Indians/Alaska Natives who received associate's degrees were higher than those of all other racial/ethnic groups shown. A higher proportion of degrees conferred to Asians/Pacific Islanders were first-professional degrees than was the case for degrees conferred to other racial/ethnic groups. A similar proportion of White and Asian/Pacific Islander degree recipients earned doctoral degrees in 2004.
Indicator 25.2. Degrees by level and field of study
Business was the most popular field of study for bachelor's degree recipients for all racial/ethnic groups shown in 2004, followed by the social sciences and history. Blacks had the highest percentage of bachelor's degrees conferred within their racial/ethnic group awarded in business (25 percent) and the lowest percentage in engineering (3 percent) of any racial/ethnic group. Hispanics had the highest percentage of bachelor's degrees conferred within their racial/ethnic group awarded in psychology (7 percent) of any racial/ethnic group. Asians/Pacific Islanders received a higher percentage of degrees conferred to those in their racial/ethnic group in the biological and biomedical sciences (9 percent), computer and information sciences (9 percent), and engineering (9 percent) than other racial/ethnic groups. Asians/Pacific Islanders also had the lowest percentage of degrees conferred within their racial/ethnic group awarded in education (2 percent). American Indians/Alaska Natives and Whites had a higher percentage of bachelor's degrees conferred within their racial/ethnic groups in education (9 percent for both groups) than did other racial/ethnic groups.
Overall, the largest proportion of master's degrees awarded in 2004 were in education, with business being the second most popular field of study. This was also the trend within each racial/ethnic group, with the exception of Asians/Pacific Islanders, for whom business (34 percent) was the most frequently awarded master's degree. Engineering (10 percent) was also a popular master's degree for Asians/Pacific Islanders. Additionally, high percentages of master's degrees conferred to Asians/Pacific Islanders (11 percent), American Indians/Alaska Natives (9 percent), and Whites (9 percent) were in health professions and related clinical sciences. Blacks received a lower percentage of their master's degrees in engineering (2 percent) than any other racial/ethnic group. Hispanics received the highest percentage of their master's degrees in education (37 percent) of any racial/ethnic group.
The largest percentage of doctoral degrees conferred in 2004 was in the field of education, followed by engineering. Among the different racial/ethnic groups, Blacks had the highest percentage of doctoral degrees conferred within their racial/ethnic group in education (38 percent), and the lowest in the biological and biomedical sciences (6 percent). American Indians/Alaska Natives and Hispanics had high percentages of doctoral degrees conferred within their racial/ethnic groups awarded in psychology (18 and 17 percent, respectively), while Asians/Pacific Islanders had the lowest percentage of their degrees in this field (9 percent). Similar to the trends in other degree levels, a low percentage of the doctoral degrees awarded to Asians/Pacific Islanders were in education (8 percent) and high percentages were in biological and biomedical sciences (19 percent) and engineering (14 percent). Whites and Asians/Pacific Islanders had higher percentages of the degrees awarded within their racial/ethnic groups in health professions and related clinical sciences (both 11 percent) than other racial/ethnic groups.