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Status and Trends in the Education of Racial and Ethnic Minorities
NCES 2010-015
July 2010

Indicator 26. Degrees Awarded

Adults who graduate from a postsecondary institution have more stable employment patterns and higher earnings than adults without postsecondary degrees (indicators 28 and 29). This indicator provides a snapshot by race/ethnicity of the degrees conferred in the 2007–08 school year with a focus on the different types of degrees earned, the differences in the number of degrees earned by males and females, and the most common fields of study.

26.1. Types of Degrees

Over 3 million degrees were awarded in 2008; about half of these degrees (51 percent) were bachelor's degrees. Twenty-four percent of all degrees conferred were associate's degrees, 20 percent were master's degrees, 3 percent were first-professional degrees, and 2 percent were doctor's degrees. This overall distribution of degrees awarded was not the same for each racial/ethnic group.

Bachelor's degrees were the most common degree conferred for all races/ethnicities shown: 54 percent of degrees conferred on Asians/Pacific Islanders were bachelor's degrees, compared with 53 percent conferred on Whites, 48 percent conferred on Hispanics, 47 percent conferred on Blacks, and 46 percent conferred on American Indians/Alaska Natives. In 2008, a higher percentage of the total degrees earned by Hispanics and American Indians/Alaska Natives were associate's degrees compared with other racial/ethnic groups: 36 percent of degrees conferred on Hispanics and 35 percent of degrees conferred on American Indians/Alaska Natives were associate's degrees, compared with 30 percent for Blacks, 23 percent for Whites, and 19 percent for Asians/Pacific Islanders.

Master's degrees accounted for 19 to 20 percent of all degrees awarded to Whites, Blacks, and Asians/Pacific Islanders, whereas master's degrees accounted for 15 percent of degrees of American Indians/Alaska Natives and 14 percent of degrees of Hispanics. The percentage of first-professional degrees conferred on Asians/Pacific Islanders (6 percent) was higher than the percentages of first-professional degrees conferred on all other racial/ethnic groups shown, including Whites (3 percent), American Indians/Alaska Natives (3 percent), Blacks (2 percent) and Hispanics (2 percent). The percentage of doctor's degrees awarded ranged from 1 to 2 percent of all degrees conferred in 2007 for each race/ethnicity shown.

View Table View Table 26.1

Within each racial/ethnic group shown, more females than males received degrees in 2008, which reflects the increased number of females enrolling in degree-granting institutions (see 24). The difference in the number of degrees awarded to females and males was pronounced among Blacks, with Black females representing 68 percent of recipients and receiving over twice as many degrees (219,200) as Black males (104,300). This pattern was evident across the levels of degrees, with about twice as many degrees conferred on Black females as Black males at each level. The largest difference was seen at the master's degree level: about 2.5 times as many Black females received master's degrees as Black males. The difference in the number of degrees between the sexes was also seen for other races/ethnicities: the percentage of degrees conferred on females was 63 percent for American Indians/Alaska Natives, 62 percent for Hispanics, 58 percent for Whites, and 55 percent for Asians/Pacific Islanders. Similar patterns were evident across levels of degree; for example, the percentage of bachelor's degrees conferred on females was 66 percent for Blacks, 61 percent each for Hispanics and American Indians/Alaska Natives, 56 percent for Whites, and 55 percent for Asians/Pacific Islanders. The only exception to this overall pattern was seen among Whites earning first-professional degrees: in 2008, White males earned about 3,900 more first professional degrees than White females.

View Table View Figure 26

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26.2. Degrees by Level and Field of Study

In 2007–08, similarities and differences existed in the relative percentage of bachelor's, master's, and doctor's degrees awarded in various fields of study among the races/ethnicities shown. This indicator discusses the 10 most popular fields of study as measured by the percentage of degrees awarded in those fields for each type of degree.

Business was the most popular bachelor's degree for all racial/ethnic groups shown, followed by the social sciences and history. Of all racial/ethnic groups, Blacks had the highest percentage of bachelor's degrees awarded in business (25 percent) and the lowest percentage awarded in engineering and engineering technologies (3 percent). Asians/Pacific Islanders received 12 percent of their bachelor's degrees in the biological and biomedical sciences and 9 percent in engineering technologies; these were higher percentages than those of all other racial /ethnic groups shown. They also received the lowest percentage of degrees in education (2 percent) of any racial/ethnic group shown. American Indians/Alaska Natives and Whites had higher percentages of their bachelor's degrees awarded in education (8 percent for both) than all other racial/ethnic groups shown.

The most popular master's degrees were in education and business. This was true for all racial/ethnic groups shown, although the relative percentages varied. For example, although education was either the most common or second most common field of study for all races/ethnicities shown, 12 percent of master's degrees awarded to Asians/Pacific Islanders were in education, compared with the 33 percent awarded to Whites and 33 percent awarded to Hispanics. Asians/Pacific Islanders had higher percentages of their master's degrees awarded in engineering and engineering technologies (11 percent), computer and information sciences and support services (5 percent), and biological and biomedical sciences (3 percent) than all other racial/ethnic groups shown. American Indians/Alaska Natives, Blacks, and Hispanics received higher percentages of master's degrees in public administration and social services (8 to 9 percent) than all other racial/ethnic groups shown. Blacks earned the lowest percentage of their master's degrees in engineering and engineering technologies (2 percent) of any racial/ethnic group shown.

There was also variation by race and ethnicity in the fields of study for doctor's degrees. For example, 37 percent of all doctor's degrees awarded to Blacks were in education, compared with 15 percent for Whites, 19 percent for Hispanics, 8 percent for Asians/Pacific Islanders, and 22 percent for American Indians/Alaska Natives. Also, 15 percent of degrees awarded to Asians/Pacific Islanders were in engineering and engineering technologies—this percentage was higher than the respective percentages for all other races/ethnicities shown (ranging from 4 to 6 percent). 

View Table View Table 26.2

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