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Postsecondary Education

Postbaccalaureate Enrollment

Last Updated: May 2021
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Between fall 2009 and 2019, total postbaccalaureate enrollment increased by 8 percent (from 2.8 million to 3.1 million students). Enrollment of Hispanic students increased by 68 percent (from 183,000 to 307,400 students). Enrollment of female students increased 11 percent compared to a 4 percent increase for male students.

In fall 2019, some 3.1 million students were enrolled in postbaccalaureate degree programs in the United States.1 Postbaccalaureate degree programs include master’s and doctoral programs, as well as professional doctoral programs such as law, medicine, and dentistry. Between 2009 and 2019, total postbaccalaureate enrollment increased by 8 percent (from 2.8 million to 3.1 million students).

Select a subgroup characteristic from drop-down menu below to view relevant text and figures.

Figure 1. Postbaccalaureate enrollment in degree-granting postsecondary institutions, by sex: Fall 2009 through 2019
Figure 1. Postbaccalaureate enrollment in degree-granting postsecondary institutions, by sex: Fall 2009 through 2019

NOTE: Data are for the 50 states and the District of Columbia. Postbaccalaureate degree programs include master’s and doctoral programs, as well as professional doctoral programs such as law, medicine, and dentistry. Degree-granting institutions grant associate’s or higher degrees and participate in Title IV federal financial aid programs. Some data have been revised from previously published figures.

SOURCE: U.S. Department of Education, National Center for Education Statistics, Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System (IPEDS), Spring 2010 through Spring 2020, Fall Enrollment component. See Digest of Education Statistics 2020, table 303.80.

In fall 2019, female students made up 60 percent of total postbaccalaureate enrollment (1.9 million students), and male students made up 40 percent (1.2 million students). Between 2009 and 2019, female enrollment increased by 11 percent (from 1.7 million to 1.9 million students) and male enrollment increased by 4 percent (from just under 1.2 million to just over 1.2 million students).2 [Time series ] [Sex]
Figure 2. Postbaccalaureate enrollment in degree-granting postsecondary institutions, by race/ethnicity and nonresident alien status: Fall 2009 through 2019
Figure 2. Postbaccalaureate enrollment in degree-granting postsecondary institutions, by race/ethnicity and nonresident alien status: Fall 2009 through 2019

— Not available.

# Rounds to zero.

NOTE: Data are for the 50 states and the District of Columbia. Postbaccalaureate degree programs include master’s and doctoral programs, as well as professional doctoral programs such as law, medicine, and dentistry. Disaggregated data on postbaccalaureate students who were Asian, Pacific Islander, and of Two or more races were not collected in 2009. In 2009, data for postbaccalaureate students who were Asian included students who were Pacific Islander. In 2009, students of Two or more races were required to select a single category from among the offered race/ethnicity categories (i.e., White, Black, Hispanic, Asian, and American Indian/Alaska Native). Race categories exclude persons of Hispanic ethnicity. Race/ethnicity categories exclude nonresident aliens. Degree-granting institutions grant associate’s or higher degrees and participate in Title IV federal financial aid programs. Although rounded numbers are displayed, the figure is based on unrounded data.

SOURCE: U.S. Department of Education, National Center for Education Statistics, Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System (IPEDS), Spring 2010 through Spring 2020, Fall Enrollment component. See Digest of Education Statistics 2020, table 306.10.

Of the 3.1 million postbaccalaureate students enrolled in fall 2019, some 1.6 million were White, 367,100 were Black, 307,400 were Hispanic, 224,700 were Asian, 86,000 were of Two or more races, 13,400 were American Indian/Alaska Native, and 6,000 were Pacific Islander. Among those with available data between 2009 and 2019, trends in postbaccalaureate enrollment varied across racial/ethnic groups.3 During this period, American Indian/Alaska Native enrollment decreased by 27 percent (from 18,300 to 13,400 students) and White enrollment decreased by 9 percent (from 1.8 million to 1.6 million students), whereas Hispanic enrollment increased by 68 percent (from 183,000 to 307,400 students). Black enrollment was 9 percent higher in 2019 than in 2009 (367,100 vs. 338,000 students), but there was no consistent trend throughout the period. [Time series ] [Race/ethnicity ]
In fall 2019, degree-granting postsecondary institutions enrolled 425,900 nonresident alien4 postbaccalaureate students, a 39 percent increase from the 305,700 students in 2009. [Time series ] [Nativity/Immigrant/Nonresident alien]
Figure 3. Percentage distribution of postbaccalaureate enrollment in degree-granting postsecondary institutions, by race/ethnicity: Fall 2009 and fall 2019
Figure 3. Percentage distribution of postbaccalaureate enrollment in degree-granting postsecondary institutions, by race/ethnicity: Fall 2009 and fall 2019

— Not available.

# Rounds to zero.

NOTE: Data are for the 50 states and the District of Columbia. Postbaccalaureate degree programs include master’s and doctoral programs, as well as professional doctoral programs such as law, medicine, and dentistry. Disaggregated data on postbaccalaureate students who were Asian, Pacific Islander, and of Two or more races were not collected in 2009. In 2009, data for postbaccalaureate students who were Asian included students who were Pacific Islander. In 2009, students of Two or more races were required to select a single category from among the offered race/ethnicity categories (i.e., White, Black, Hispanic, Asian, and American Indian/Alaska Native). Race categories exclude persons of Hispanic ethnicity. Race/ethnicity categories exclude nonresident aliens. Degree-granting institutions grant associate’s or higher degrees and participate in Title IV federal financial aid programs. Although rounded numbers are displayed, the figure is based on unrounded data.

SOURCE: U.S. Department of Education, National Center for Education Statistics, Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System (IPEDS), Spring 2010 and 2020, Fall Enrollment component. See Digest of Education Statistics 2020, table 306.10.

Of the 2.6 million U.S. resident postbaccalaureate students (i.e., excluding nonresident alien students), the percentage of postbaccalaureate students who were White was lower in fall 2019 (62 percent) than in 2009 (71 percent). By contrast, the percentage of postbaccalaureate students who were Hispanic was higher in 2019 (12 percent) than in 2009 (7 percent). In fall 2009 and 2019, the percentages of postbaccalaureate students who were Black were 13 percent and 14 percent, respectively, while American Indian/Alaska Native students made up 1 percent of total postbaccalaureate students in both years. [Time series ] [Race/ethnicity ]
Figure 4. Postbaccalaureate enrollment in degree-granting postsecondary institutions, by attendance status: Fall 2009 through 2019
Figure 4. Postbaccalaureate enrollment in degree-granting postsecondary institutions, by attendance status: Fall 2009 through 2019

NOTE: Data are for the 50 states and the District of Columbia. Postbaccalaureate degree programs include master’s and doctoral programs, as well as professional doctoral programs such as law, medicine, and dentistry. Degree-granting institutions grant associate’s or higher degrees and participate in Title IV federal financial aid programs. Some data have been revised from previously published figures.

SOURCE: U.S. Department of Education, National Center for Education Statistics, Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System (IPEDS), Spring 2010 through Spring 2020, Fall Enrollment component. See Digest of Education Statistics 2020, table 303.80.

In fall 2019, there were 1.7 million full-time postbaccalaureate students and 1.3 million part-time postbaccalaureate students enrolled at U.S. postsecondary institutions. Between 2009 and 2019, full-time enrollment increased by 11 percent (from 1.6 million to 1.7 million students), while part-time enrollment remained relatively steady (at 1.3 million students). [Time series ] [Full-time/Part-time ]
Figure 5. Postbaccalaureate enrollment in degree-granting postsecondary institutions, by control of institution: Fall 2009 through 2019
Figure 5. Postbaccalaureate enrollment in degree-granting postsecondary institutions, by control of institution: Fall 2009 through 2019

NOTE: Data are for the 50 states and the District of Columbia. Postbaccalaureate degree programs include master’s and doctoral programs, as well as professional doctoral programs such as law, medicine, and dentistry. Degree-granting institutions grant associate’s or higher degrees and participate in Title IV federal financial aid programs. Some data have been revised from previously published figures.

SOURCE: U.S. Department of Education, National Center for Education Statistics, Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System (IPEDS), Spring 2010 through Spring 2020, Fall Enrollment component. See Digest of Education Statistics 2020, table 303.80.

In fall 2019, postbaccalaureate enrollment was higher at public institutions (1.5 million students) and private nonprofit institutions (1.3 million students) than at private for-profit institutions (232,500 students). Between 2009 and 2019, enrollment at public institutions increased by 5 percent (from 1.4 million to 1.5 million students) and at private nonprofit institutions by 14 percent (from 1.2 million to 1.3 million students). By contrast, enrollment at private for-profit institutions decreased by 8 percent (from 252,500 to 232,500 students). [Time series ] [Control of institution]
Figure 6. Percentage of postbaccalaureate students enrolled in degree-granting postsecondary institutions, by participation in distance education and control of institution: Fall 2019
Figure 6. Percentage of postbaccalaureate students enrolled in degree-granting postsecondary institutions, by participation in distance education and control of institution: Fall 2019

NOTE: Data are for the 50 states and the District of Columbia. Postbaccalaureate degree programs include master’s and doctoral programs, as well as professional doctoral programs such as law, medicine, and dentistry. Degree-granting institutions grant associate’s or higher degrees and participate in Title IV federal financial aid programs. Distance education uses one or more technologies to deliver instruction to students who are separated from the instructor and to support regular and substantive interaction between the student and the instructor synchronously or asynchronously. Technologies used for instruction may include the following: the internet; one-way and two-way transmissions through open broadcasts, closed circuit, cable, microwave, broadband lines, fiber optics, satellite, or wireless communication devices; audio conferencing; and videocassettes, DVDs, and CD-ROMs, only if the videocassettes, DVDs, and CD-ROMs are used in a course in conjunction with the technologies listed above.

SOURCE: U.S. Department of Education, National Center for Education Statistics, Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System (IPEDS), Spring 2020, Fall Enrollment component. See Digest of Education Statistics 2020, table 311.15.

Distance education5 courses and programs provide flexible learning opportunities to postbaccalaureate students. In fall 2019, some 1.3 million students, or 42 percent of all postbaccalaureate students, enrolled in at least one distance education course. Some 1.0 million students, or 33 percent of total postbaccalaureate enrollment, took distance education courses exclusively.6 Among students who took distance education courses exclusively, 44 percent (436,700 students) were enrolled at institutions located in the same state in which they resided and 52 percent (525,000 students) were enrolled at institutions in a different state.7 [Distance Education]
The percentage of postbaccalaureate students enrolled exclusively in distance education courses varied by control of institution (i.e., public, private nonprofit, or private for-profit). In fall 2019, the percentage of students at private for-profit institutions who took distance education courses exclusively (87 percent) was higher than that of students at private nonprofit (30 percent) and public (27 percent) institutions. The percentage of students who did not take any distance education courses was higher for those enrolled at public (63 percent) and private nonprofit (60 percent) institutions than for those at private for-profit (9 percent) institutions. [Control of institution] [Distance Education]

1 Data in this indicator represent the 50 states and the District of Columbia.

2 Although male enrollment increased by 4 percent between 2009 to 2019 (from 1.17 million to 1.21 students), enrollment in both years round to 1.2 million students.

3 Disaggregated data on postbaccalaureate students who were Asian, Pacific Islander, and of Two or more races were not collected in 2009. In 2009, data for postbaccalaureate students who were Asian included students who were Pacific Islander. In 2009, students of Two or more races were required to select a single category from among the offered race/ethnicity categories (i.e., White, Black, Hispanic, Asian, and American Indian/Alaska Native).

4 In the Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System (IPEDS), data for the nonresident alien category are collected alongside data for racial/ethnic categories. Race/ethnicity categories exclude nonresident aliens.

5 Distance education uses one or more technologies to deliver instruction to students who are separated from the instructor and to support regular and substantive interaction between the student and the instructor synchronously or asynchronously. Technologies used for instruction may include the following: the internet; one-way and two-way transmissions through open broadcasts, closed circuit, cable, microwave, broadband lines, fiber optics, satellite, or wireless communication devices; audio conferencing; and videocassettes, DVDs, and CD-ROMs, only if the videocassettes, DVDs, and CD-ROMs are used in a course in conjunction with the technologies listed above.

6 In comparison, 15 percent of undergraduate students took distance education courses exclusively. See indicator on Undergraduate Enrollment.

7 Not all students taking distance education courses exclusively are specified separately in this comparison; for instance, students residing outside the United States or those whose location is unknown are not specified separately. Percentages were computed on a base of all students who took distance education courses exclusively, regardless of their location.

Supplemental Information

Postbaccalaureate Enrollment [Status and Trends in the Education of Racial and Ethnic Groups]
Trends in Student Loan Debt for Graduate School Completers [The Condition of Education 2018 Spotlight]
Undergraduate Enrollment [Status and Trends in the Education of Racial and Ethnic Groups]
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Table 303.80 (Digest 2020): Total postbaccalaureate fall enrollment in degree-granting postsecondary institutions, by attendance status, sex of student, and control of institution: 1970 through 2029;
Table 306.10 (Digest 2020): Total fall enrollment in degree-granting postsecondary institutions, by level of enrollment, sex, attendance status, and race/ethnicity or nonresident alien status of student: Selected years, 1976 through 2019;
Table 311.15 (Digest 2020): Number and percentage of students enrolled in degree-granting postsecondary institutions, by distance education participation, location of student, level of enrollment, and control and level of institution: Fall 2018 and fall 2019;
Table 311.15 (Digest 2019): Number and percentage of students enrolled in degree-granting postsecondary institutions, by distance education participation, location of student, level of enrollment, and control and level of institution: Fall 2017 and fall 2018;
Table 306.10 (Digest 2017): Total fall enrollment in degree-granting postsecondary institutions, by level of enrollment, sex, attendance status, and race/ethnicity of student: Selected years, 1976 through 2016;
Table 306.10 (Digest 2015): Total fall enrollment in degree-granting postsecondary institutions, by level of enrollment, sex, attendance status, and race/ethnicity of student: Selected years, 1976 through 2014
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Suggested Citation

National Center for Education Statistics. (2022). Postbaccalaureate Enrollment. Condition of Education. U.S. Department of Education, Institute of Education Sciences. Retrieved [date], from https://nces.ed.gov/programs/coe/indicator/chb.